Flesh Like Smoke Up For Preorder from April Moon Books

April Moon Books, who put out the great Dark Rites Of Cthulhu anthology a while back and will be publishing my ninth novel, Mindbreaker, is set to publish their lycanthropy anthology Flesh Like Smoke, which includes my short story Philopatry, in which a Catholic priest enlists the help of an ex-convict to stop a streak of serial murders in his south Boston neighborhood after hearing the murderer’s confession.

fls

Also featuring –

Her Father’s Skin – Christine Morgan
Chaney Jr. Overdrive – Glynn Owen Barrass
Blood and Bone – Tim Waggoner
Bruce, Waking Up – Paul McMahon
Purity Ball – Cody Goodfellow
Were…? – Darrell Schweitzer
Scoop – Sam Gafford
Hunter’s Moon – Don Webb & D.A. Madigan
The Abraxas Protocol – Scott R Jones
Claw and Fang, Stone and Bone – Konstantine Paradias
The Weathered Stone – William Meikle
Survival of the Fittest – Sam Stone and David J Howe
Things Change – Pete Rawlik
Though It Be Darkness There – Damien Angelica Walters
Blood and Dust – Brian M. Sammons

And here’s a preview of the illustration accompanying my story, drawn by Neil Smith.

philopatry

Preorder here –

http://www.aprilmoonbooks.com/#!flesh-like-smoke/c1x91

Measures Of Success: My Top Three Movie Props

A guy over at the memorabilia auction site Invaluable.com posed an interesting question to me which I thought it’d be fun to answer here as it ties in a bit with my hopes for success as a writer.

I’m far from wealthy, and with three young children probably college bound at some point in the future, I don’t expect to have much disposable income in the years to come. In our most selfish moments though, all of us fantasize about luxury items we’d purchase for ourselves if we achieved a modicum of success.

As a long time movie nerd, it should be no surprise that my wish list items are movie-related. There are movies that helped define me as a writer, and certain artifacts from them that are emblematic of those films. I’ve often thought that as I reached certain milestones in my career, I might mark them with an outlandish purchase.

So here they are.

conanthebarbarian5First off, I’m a tremendous fan of Robert E. Howard. He’s my favorite writer, and his Conan and Solomon Kane stories are some of my earliest inspirations. But I never would have come to Howard if I hadn’t noticed his byline in the opening credits to John Milius’ masterful 1982 Conan The Barbarian, which also happen to showcase the first item on this list; the sword of Conan’s father.

conanbarbarian4We first see it as a sword-shaped trench of liquid steel poured across the black screen, and as Basil Poledouris’ tremendous theme thrums, it takes shape. We see the grinning stag skull crossguard freed from the steel beneath the father’s tools, and the split hoof motif on the pommel as Conan’s mother wraps the handle in leather. Best of all, the stylized inscription down the length of the blade – SUFFER NO GUILT YE WHO WIELD THIS IN THE NAME OF CROM.

The Atlantean sword Schwarzenegger wields throughout the movie is classic, but the artistry of the father’s sword props nudges it over the edge for me. I’d love to have it on my wall.

HanCarboniteThe median trophy on my list has to be Han Solo in carbonite from The Empire Strikes Back and Return of The Jedi. The Corellian smuggler being betrayed by his friend Lando Calrissian and then lowered into the carbon freezing pit as Chewie howls plaintively and the previously aloof Princess Leia declares her love for him is one of my earliest and most favorite theater memories from childhood. I remember my mother streaming tears beside me in the dark as my five year old self whimpered, “Is he dead?” She turned to me and sobbed, “No, he’s just sleeping.” Hah. I’ve seen the movie so many times now that that initial effect is long gone, so much so that I wish I could experience it again for the first time. EP6_KEY_57_RWe next see Han hanging as Jabba The Hutt’s prize trophy in his hall on Tattooine. I suppose wanting this prop on the surface may seem like I relate to a slimy piece of worm-ridden filth, but there it is. First I need the wall space to hang it on.

Sam tells me two years ago they held an auction for Harrison Ford’s original DL-44 blaster from Star Wars.

http://www.invaluable.com/auction-lot/harrison-ford-han-solo-dl-44-blaster-from-star-379-c-44e307f3bc

That’s a pretty sweet acquisition.

But my holy grail? No, not the Holy Grail from Last Crusade, nor from Boorman’s Excalibur (King Arthur’s sword would be pretty killer, but I hear Boorman has it hanging above his mantle with the Grail itself). The thing that beats out Howard Hill/Errol Flynn’s bow from The Adventures of Robin Hood, or Egg Chen’s Six Demon Bag from Big Trouble In Little China, or The Man With No Name’s serape, or a half dozen other cinematic artifacts that I covet?

The one thing that, if you saw me riding around in would tell you that I’ve achieved everything I’ve set out to do as an author even more than the smug look on my face?

mad-max-2The all black V-8 Interceptor as it appeared in George Miller’s original Mad Max. madmaxinterceptor-thenBuilt from a 1973 XB GT Ford Falcon Coupe and tricked out with that amazing blower, triple exhausts behind the doors, and MFP shields, it’s truly the duck’s gut. Is it a proper prop? Perhaps an unwieldy one, not as portable as say Lord Humongous’ goalie mask or Max’s pistol gripped sawed off, but the original Mad Max trilogy grabbed a hold of me like no other series of films with its visceral high octane thrills, and the Interceptor swiftly became my number one dream car.

Thanks again Invaluable for getting my wheels spinning with the question.

Check out their site here.

http://www.invaluable.com/memorabilia/cc-WXMDZM23Q2/

Published in: on June 15, 2015 at 3:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Ashe Armstrong’s A Demon In The Desert

downloadHello, everyone.  I’m Ashe Armstrong and this is me guest blogging on Ed’s blog because he wants my book to succeed.  Or he’s cleverly using me to boost his own sales by showing you all a horrible writer.  Which is ironic considering I’m his unofficial hype man anyways (I have gotten him at least five sales, if not a whole six).  I think it’s the success thing though.  Because we love the Weird West and his Merkabah Rider books are the basis of our friendship.  So, with my book, A Demon in the Desert forthcoming, and because he’s a stand-up guy, he offered me some space to try and sell you on my book so that I can sell you my book.  Now, self-promotion is a weird thing, so instead of just going “blah blah blah, buy THIS AMAZING, LIFE-CHANGING PIECE OF LITERATURE,” I’d rather talk about interesting things around the book.  First though…

What’s the book about?  I gotta tell you this to get to the other points.  A Demon in the Desert is about Grimluk, an Orc demon-hunter and gunslinger, doing his job out in the Wastelands in a mining town called Greenreach Bluffs.  There’s madness, hallucinations, nightmares, the titular demon, elves, dwarves, hobbits halflings, ghouls, and orcs.  Now I can get to the real meat.

Why an Orc?  For one, because Orc protagonists are still lacking.  And secondly, to be quite honest, Skyrim.  I was playing lots of Skyrim.  But let’s look at the landscape in fantasy.  There are heroic humans abound.  Elves dispensing wisdom and ass-kicking.  Mixed race heroes born of elves and men.  Dwarves with stoic faces and huge, fuck-off beards.  Hobbits (and gnomes!), for fuck’s sake!  And they all get to be interesting characters or, at the least, whirlwinds of death for the big bad.  But Orcs?  Orcs are usually brutal, savages, and written as fodder for our heroes.  Orcs, as far as I’ve seen, have changed the least of the fantasy races.  Even among fans of Orcs, they remain, at best, Noble Savages.

 Thirdly, because when the idea hit me, it was a completely badass image and in some ways I am still a 12 year old.  When Grimluk came into being, it was one of those moments of creation where you know, if you don’t use this idea right now, right fucking now, it’ll be gone forever.  I started the book without even knowing it was gonna be a book.  I started purely with a picture of Grimluk in my mind and started the night it appeared.  This was last February (of 2014 for those of you who are reading from the future).

Weird Western?  Hell yeah.  Fans of Ed don’t need any explanation for why the Weird West is where it’s at.  For everyone else, I will again break it town.  Obviously the biggest reason is because I love weird westerns and it’s my story, I can do what I want, but I’ll give real reasons.

 Because most of Fantasy is still set in medieval/middle ages analogs with castles and kings and peasants and Dark Overlords and powerful magic.  And I like those things but time marches on.  I wanted to see what would happen if, say, Middle-Earth or Tamriel’s technology and culture had progressed towards something like 1880s America.  And, to a small extent (and it only really came to mind the more I’d written), what if Robert Howard had put Conan in the role of wandering gunslinger?  And there’s more to those thoughts, especially regarding Orcs.  Eventually, I’ll gather up my notes and organize them and post up a big history report.  For now, it’s only important for me and the world building (and I’m avoiding world builder-itis, don’t worry).  This thought process was the biggest inspiration though.

 After that, I went a little farther.  What if part of this world, already full of monsters and haunted by demons, had been transformed by some cataclysmic event that rendered part of it a barren Wasteland?  A great big desert that’s filled with beasts no one had seen before.  Lovecraftian terrors and a general increase in demons.  The whole of the Wasteland being a beacon of horrifying things.  I’m dying to go further into all that, but most of it is going to get a big ass explanation in a later book, as well as a big ass plot too.

So what influenced me?  Well, like I said before, I was playing lots of Skyrim.  I don’t remember why but I got it in my head to make an Orsimer and play it as a non-Dragonborn.  But everything, the concepts, the basic idea of the wandering gunslinger fighting monsters around the land?  The Dark Tower.  I was in the middle of the series, both my first introduction to Stephen King and my first exposure to the Weird West since I was a kid (first exposure being Back to the Future 3 and The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.).  And it grabbed a hold of me.  I started working out an idea for a comic series with a lot of the concepts that have gone into Demon.  That series, which ended up going from comic to prose, was set on Earth.  An alternate Earth where Wizards had had a war centuries ago that had ravaged half the planet.  Everything west of the Mississippi was scorched earth and monsters.

 I wanted to use urban myths and folklore.  Hellboy had gotten in my head too, so between that, The Dark Tower, and the sudden explosion of steampunk, I had all these ideas swirling around.  I made notes upon notes, I started scripting, and then I started trying to work out prose.  Then I discovered Deadlands and that had an influence on me too.  But the story, the characters just never really came together, never really clicked.  But last year, it did.  It finally clicked.  And at first, I thought the book was just gonna be a short story.  And then it just kept going.  And now I’m here.

Now, Ed recommended that I tell you more about the plot too, and that’s probably a smart idea.  I’ve told you mostly about the who and the where, so, I guess, now for some what and why.  Grimluk, Orc, demon hunter, all around nice dude, ends up in Greenreach Bluffs to hunt their demon.  That’s the basics.  Beyond that, I wouldn’t say I get super deep with the story.  Maybe in pieces.  Grimluk isn’t an anti-hero.  He goes into every job with sincerity, genuinely wanting to help people.  He likes to joke, buy folks food, try and take away a little bit of the badness in their lives as well as kill the monsters plaguing them.

Nightmares are a definite, central theme to the book though.  Demons have strange effects on folks.  Screw with their heads in a number of ways, and nightmares and hallucinations were the one I kinda latched on to.  And a lot of the nightmares I include are things I’ve experienced, or things people close to me have.  The very first nightmare in the story is one that plagued me for a long time.  I kind of expanded it, to make it more mystical, but the way I describe it is how I felt when they happened.

I’m not sure what else to say to entice you with the story.  I don’t want to give a whole lot away.  It’s not just fights and horror though.  I did my best to write real characters.  Make them believable.  There is a lot of violence towards the end, and I hope the nightmares sound as scary as I think, but mostly, I hope you love the characters.  Especially Grimluk, cause he’ll definitely be back for more.

So, if any of that interests you, if your curiosity is piqued, you can check out the first chapter for free. If you want to just buy it outright, well, you’re awesome.  Just follow the link.  And hey, if you want to read new stuff from me on a regular basis, check out my Patreon and maybe consider becoming a patron.  Two bucks a month gets you a whole mess of words.

Published in: on June 1, 2015 at 1:18 am  Leave a Comment  

DT Moviehouse Review: Captain Blood

Time once more for my blog feature, DT Moviehouse Reviews, in which I make my way alphabetically through my 200+ DVD/Blu-Ray collection (you can see the list right here) and decide if each one was worth the money. Today I review the Michael Curtiz classic Captain Blood.

Screenplay by Casey Robinson, from the novel by Rafael Sabatini

Directed by Michael Curtiz

Tagline: None

Alex-Raymond-Captain-Blood-Half-Sheet-Movie-Poster-Illustration-Original-Art-Warner-Bros.1935.-2

What It’s About:

Condemned to slavery for treating a wounded rebel against King James, Irish surgeon Peter Blood (Errol Flynn), engineers his escape from Port Royale, Jamaica and sets out on the path of piracy, leading a crew of buccaneers made up of his fellow escapees. Along the way, he manages to romance the niece of his former owner, Araballa Bishop (Olivia DeHavilland).

Why I Bought It:

captain-bloodI previously reviewed The Black Swan here on this blog. Along with that film and The Crimson Pirate (with perhaps Victor Fleming’s iteration of Treasure Island a close contender), Captain Blood completes the trilogy of the most influential pirate movies ever made, and in my opinion, is the best. This is a movie that sets the tone for a genre, storming the public consciousness with a lusty “FORWARD M’HEARTIES!” It surely owes something to its silent predecessors (including its own original 1923 version – this was a remake), especially Douglas Fairbanks and The Black Pirate, but Captain Blood solidifies the much-imitated tropes of the handsome, swashbuckling captain, often wrongly accused or misunderstood, the lusty, drunken crew cavorting in Tortuga, the duel between the true hearted rapscallion and his cruel opposite number, and the resistant (usually well off) maiden who eventually succumbs to the main rogue’s initially bristly charms.

Annex - Flynn Errol Captain Blood_04This is a movie of memorable firsts. It was the first American film of Tasmanian-born Errol Flynn, who was brought in as an unknown when Robert Donat declined the role. The strength of Flynn in this part can’t be understated. He’s hellishly charming (“Faith, I’m the sort of man you like, m’gal.”), funny, deceptively easy going, inspiring, and when he needs to be, ridiculously effective in the action sequences, every physical movement a punctuation of character, from an encouraging wave of the hand to a deadly thrust of a rapier. He’s Bond before Bond. Gibson before Gibson. A born action star before there was such a thing. He slips from easy charm (“Will you be back by breakfast?” “Who knows, my pretty one? Who knows?”) to righteous indignation (“What a creature must sit on the throne to let a man like you deal out his justice.”) with all the ease of a rapier coming free of its scabbard.

Captain-Blood-Errol-Flynn-movieIt was the first pairing of Flynn and his leading lady, the incomparable Olivia de Havilland. As I said in my review of The Adventures of Robin Hood, de Havilland is the only actress I’ve ever in my life felt compelled to write a fan letter too. She’s effervescent; in my mind, the epitome of silver screen grace and charm in the feminine. Far from the shrewish noblewoman or shrinking maiden, her initial encounter with Blood is as his purchaser, when in a fit of compassion, she outbids a cruel mine owner to save the dashing surgeon from a life of hard toil under a notoriously vicious slave master. This leads to some playful flirting, a retreat on her part, and an eventual reversal of fortune when, after she is captured in a raid by Blood’s rival Levasseur (expressly against the articles forbidding the mistreatment of women in their alliance charter), Peter kills her captor in an epic duel to the death, buying her back in blood.

errolflynnandbasilrathboneincaptainbloodCaptain Blood has no main villain, but rather a succession of heavies that have to be overcome, from the tyrannical King James whom Blood unwittingly rebels against, the sadistic judge who sentences him to slavery, Arabella’s gruff, slave beating and pirate hunting uncle (Lionel Atwill), to the Spanish and French navies. But the most memorable in this cavalcade of antagonists is Captain Levasseur, depicted with oily magnificence by Basil Rathbone. Rathbone is the hedonistic and cruel evolution of Peter Blood. He’s the stick by which Arabella and everyone else judges Peter Blood; the stereotypical pirate villain, so iconic that Disney surely borrowed his likeness and mannerisms for their Hook in Peter Pan. Known mainly for his reserved and brilliant portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, Rathbone apparently relishes cutting loose here, playing the villain to the hilt (as he will again when put up against Flynn a second time in Adventures of Robin Hood).

captain-blood-16The duel between Flynn and Rathbone on the beach over Arabella and the right to rule their pirate fleet is one of the classic onscreen clashes, deft and fast and appropriately italicized by Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s score.  It informs similar duels in The Princess Bride and the Pirates of The Caribbean movies, as well as in the unofficial rematch in Adventures of Robin Hood. Much of Captain Blood, with hindsight, feels like a practice run for Robin Hood. The supporting characters fulfill the Tuck, Will Scarlett, and March the Miller roles, and some of the gags show up again in Robin Hood (like the guy popping out to wallop somebody during the big fight). The death of the villain, spread across the rocks as the surf crashes across his staring face, is a classic moment in a movie full of classic moments.

Captain Blood pic 4The supporting players are all equally gush-worthy.  The tragic Ross Alexander gives a good performance as navigator Jeremy Pitt, Guy Kibbee as gunner Hagthorpe, Donald Meek as an incompetent surgeon, Frank McGlynn Sr. as the bible quoting pirate, George Hassell as the gout-infected governor of Jamaica, and especially Forrester Harvey as the cowardly opportunistic carpenter, Honesty Nuttall, who shoots his own toe off after a skirmish to try and earn an extra share for a lost limb.

I understand some of the final battle sequence is lifted from the silent version of The Sea Hawk, but it doesn’t detract. It’s still pretty exciting stuff. The guy getting pinned to the rail by the grappling hook during the initial boarding action always got me as a kid, and I’ve seen it repeated a thousand times since.

I took the time to read the original Rafael Sabatini novel, back when I was on a screenwriting kick and wondering how close it was to the novel, and if it’d benefit from a remake. It wouldn’t. It actually cleaves pretty close to the source material, with a few minor exceptions.

Best Dialogue/Line:

“It’s the world against us and us against the world!”

Best Scene:

CAPTAIN_BLOOD-14There’s a funny bit where Blood is plotting their escape with the help of Honesty Nuttall, who, after agreeing to secure a laundry list of items, observes that it’s not too late for them to back out of the risky endeavor.

Blood: Nuttall, me lad, there’s just one other little thing. Do you think you could find me a good stout piece of timber? About so thick and so long?

Honesty Nuttall: Yes, I think so.

Blood: Then do so and lash it to your spine – it needs stiffening. Courage! We’ll join you at midnight.

Would I Buy It Again: You bet.

Next In The Queue: The Car

The Muttwhelp In Blackguards/Blacklist Out Today from Ragnarok

Out today in e-formats from Ragnarok Publications, publisher of my forthcoming novella collection With Sword And Pistol this August, is Blackguards, a dark fantasy fiction anthology centered around the exploits of rogues, assassins, and general do-badders.

The book features –

CAROL BERG, “Seeds”
RICHARD LEE BYERS, “Troll Trouble”
DAVID DALGLISH, “Take You Home”
JAMES ENGE, “Thieves at the Gate”
JOHN GWYNNE, “Better to Live than to Die”
LIAN HEARN, “His Kikuta Hands”
SNORRI KRISTJANSSON, “A Kingdom and a Horse”
JOSEPH LALLO, “Seeking the Shadow”
MARK LAWRENCE, “The Secret”
TIM MARQUITZ, “A Taste of Agony”
PETER ORULLIAN, “A Length of Cherrywood”
CAT RAMBO, “The Subtler Art”
LAURA RESNICK, “Friendship”
MARK SMYLIE, “Manhunt”
KENNY SOWARD, “Jancy’s Justice”
SHAWN SPEAKMAN, “The White Rose Thief”
JON SPRUNK, “Sun and Steel”
ANTON STROUT, “Scream”
MICHAEL J. SULLIVAN, “Professional Integrity”
DJANGO WEXLER, “The First Kill”
ANTHONY RYAN, “The Lord Collector”
PAUL S. KEMP, “A Better Man”
JAMES A. MOORE, “What Gods Demand”
JEAN RABE, “Mainon”
BRADLEY P. BEAULIEU, “Irindai”
S.R. CAMBRIDGE, “”The Magus and the Betyar”
CLAY SANGER, “The Long Kiss”

It features an introduction by Glen Cook, author of the infamous Black Company.

As a companion to the e-release, readers also get Blacklist, a compendium of eleven bonus stories –

ROB J. HAYES, “To the End”
REBECCA LOVATT, “To Steal the Moon”
ANTHONY LOWE, “The Lonesome Dark”
LINDA ROBERTSON, “Comeuppance”
SAM KNIGHT, “The Assassination of Poppy Smithswife”
S.M. WHITE, “Telhinsol’s Shadow”
NOAH HEINRICH, “The Laughing Wind”
MIKE THEODORSSON, “Bloody Gratitude”
BRENDA CARRE, “Gret”
ERIK SCOTT DE BIE, “Angel of Tears”

and finally my own Ork-centric tale The Muttwhelp, about a half-Ork bandit chief, master and reluctant protector of a gang of bloodthirsty goblins, who is recruited into a dark Ork army and unexpectedly reunites with his long estranged father. Think of it as A Boy Named Sue with Orks.

Readers of my usual fare may think of this as a departure story, but in truth, fantasy fiction was probably the first I ever wrote. After discovering Robert E. Howard and J.R.R. Tolkien almost in the same summer of ’88 or ’89, I immediately set about creating my own epic fantasy world, populated with cocky rogues, earnest swordsmen, and a crafty goblin villain named Redshat. I filled notebooks with stories of the land of Wayfar, and scrawled out highly detailed maps that would’ve swelled the heart of any Dungeonmaster worth the title.

I moved onto other projects as my writing progressed, but I guess the smoky towers of Rentellevaire and the crashing waves of the Billow never really left me. It took Dungeons and Dragons to bring me back there.

dd-bboxI think I’ve written here before of my recent return to fantasy roleplaying games after a dry spell of over fifteen years. I was wrapping up another full length fantasy story, an Arthurian novel, The Knight With Two Swords, which will see the light of day at some point next year, and D&D’s latest iteration got my mind moving further in the swords and sorcery direction. The first character I created on a whim to get back into playing, though I didn’t know it then, turned out to be a mixed blood denizen of old Wayfar.

Yeah, this story began as a D&D character.

I know that’s considered a huge no-no, but what the hell, the editors liked the character and the story enough to include it, and I was paid, so I guess not every rule applies every time. Anyway, I think the commandment against writing about your RPG characters is because some people like to play their ideal selves. I see D&D as a fun exercise and I highly recommend it to all my writer friends. I’ve always been more interested in playing (and playing with) cowards, narrow minded fanatics, naive bumpkins, incompetents, layabouts, neurotics, and incurable alcoholics in my D&D sessions because I like to think about how they exist in the world of heroic fantasy. I enjoy seeing them interact with truly heroic or adept characters. Those personality clashes and occasional monkey wrenches are, I think, what makes a game interesting, and turns the static into the dynamic. The Mary Sue, the Munchkin, these have never appealed to me very much as a player.

Anyway, enough about my hobbies.

unnamedI’ve read and seen countless epic fantasies where a dark army rises in the south/east/north to threaten the ‘good’ kingdoms of the world. It’s very often a mottled horde of subhuman goblins and orcs led by some charismatic personality, usually a wizard or evil god. There’s an inherent Eurocentrism which I could delve into here, but this writer and his comments section address it pretty well and I encourage you to read about it there if you’re inclined. 

I’ve never personally read a story told from the point of view of a front line soldier in one of those bad guy legions.

orcsThat’s what attracted me to the call for Blacklist. I saw in it a way to do one of those POV stories of a ground level soldier in an epic war, as ambivalent to the higher machinations of his lofty, power hungry commanders as perhaps the average grunt in some far flung war is now to the politicos running it. What kind of a person enlists in an army of darkness, and for what reasons do such people band together? They can’t all be deceived as the Haridrim of Middle Earth, or simply evil.

I also conceived of the idea of seeing how the actions of one man can precipitate a shift in history, sometimes unintentionally, as in the assassination of Duke Ferdinand by Gavrilo Pincrip, and I like the concept of inadvertent and often unwelcome heroism, as portrayed in the Flashman stories of George MacDonald Fraser.

bloodbowlFinally, I’ve been a fan of orcs and goblins probably since my Games Workshop days. I have never actually played the complicated and expensive wargames that spawned all those amazingly detailed little figures, but I did play Blood Bowl, and appreciated the personality that came forth in the writing and sculpting of those kinds of characters.

Anyway, here’s a bit from The Muttwhelp. Please check it out.

—————————————————————————————–

Mogarth had fallen into the leadership of the Bellygashers by happenstance.

As a muttwhelp, the son of some nameless ork raider who had ravaged his human mother and left her hanging half-dead and bleeding from an oak tree on his grandfather’s farm outside Glean, he had never quite fit in anywhere. Most muttwhelps never made it to the birthing, or were hacked to death in their cradles or drowned. His tenderhearted mother had suckled him, even though his tusk nubs had scarred her nipples. She had raised him, even though it had isolated her from her own family and neighbors, and educated him by the hearth light when the scowling master at the Glean schoolhouse had turned him away, an ugly, green skinned babe snuffling snot and bitter tears into her apron.

He had worked down in those golden fields till one winter when his mother had caught a deep chill in her chest and sickened past caring, wasting to death when the robins returned. He had tried to keep the old farm going after that, but none of the merchants in Glean would buy his yield, or sell him seed, and he couldn’t afford any intermediary agent.

He had burned the farm to the ground and salted the fields to ensure none of the hateful pinkskins could use it in his wake.

orcsittingHe rubbed his rough hand over his stubbled head. He could still see the bare patch of land down in the valley where his home had once stood.

Mogarth had departed for Crossbow Hollow, the eastern gateway to the Golden Lap Valley and its most populous city, taking only the old blue shirt his mother had woven for him and the silver handled whip his father had left tied around her scarred throat.

The whip. His only heirloom. A cruel black thing with a barbed popper and a gnashing jackal’s head wrought in tarnished silver encasing the knotted handle.

“Home again, eh, boss?” Redshat said, having noticed Mogarth’s eyes, staring down at the valley waiting to be crushed flat and burned by the Black Army.

“No home of mine,” Mogarth grumbled.

In truth, the closest thing he had to home after his mother’s death had been with the Bellygashers, though he’d never admit it to Redshat.

The people in Crossbow Hollow hadn’t treated him any better than the humans of Glean. No one would hire him, not even the stableyard master. Unable to secure work he’d taken to making money any way he could. Naturally large, he had earned a meager living fighting in the sawdust pits for a time, when a scheming promoter had convinced him it was possible to retire on a brawler’s winnings. But the crowds, most of them missing limbs or loved ones from the frequent ork raids, had hated him, and when it had been suggested he begin losing to please them, he turned to cutpursing and bashing the skulls of drunks late at night.

When the Hartslayers had brought in the Bellygasher Gang one night and left them locked in the jail wagon out in front of Bintu’s Tavern while they threw themselves a congratulatory celebration, he had gathered with the rest of the drunken crowd and watched them jeer and pitch dog shit and beer at the five little sable skinned goblins gripping the bars and gnashing their black needle teeth within.

The Bellygashers already had a reputation for waylaying travelers. Their leader, Picknose’s brother Pickscab, had thought it a great joke to tie travelers alive to trees, cut their stomachs open, then fasten their intestines to the saddle horns of their own horses and lash them down the road to town.

The Hartslayers, unappreciative of his humor but savoring irony, had done the same for Pickscab. They’d slit him open and tied his guts to the back of the prison wagon. They’d made him march behind until he’d died and then dragged his carcass the rest of the way to town. Picknose had tried to cut his brother loose, but his claws couldn’t reach through the bars. He had still bore the gray scars of his effort on his skinny arms.

Something in the cruelty of the Hartslayers had rankled Mogarth, even though he’d known well it was deserved punishment. The sight of the town dogs tearing Pickscab’s corpse apart as the squealing little pink children fetched up the goblin’s cast off genitals and flung them back and forth at each other had boiled his blood.

Maybe it was because somewhere back in his own cursed heritage, gobbos were kin to orks. Maybe it was just the ugliness on display that night. He didn’t know.

He’d set fire to the Hartslayers’ constabulary and, while everybody had gone off with buckets to fight the blaze, he’d picked the lock of the cage and gone running off into the dark with the tumbling, chittering goblins.

It hadn’t been easy leading that bunch at first. Gobbos weren’t bright, and they were disgusting. A few times that first night he’d woken to find one of them gnawing at his toes, or two of them trying to tie his hands and feet, but after giving them a respectable thrashing, they’d relented to his company. Once he’d made them understand there was more to be gained from robbing travelers of their gold than in simply torturing them, they’d even accepted him as their boss.

He had maintained his innocuous presence in town, but he used the money from their subsequent robberies to build a cabin in the foothills on the outskirts where he pretended to raise sheep. In actuality, he bred them for the Bellygashers, who exchanged live mutton for gold and jewelry. Picknose still insisted on honoring his late brother’s memory with the occasional disembowelment, but Mogarth was able to keep them informed as to the Hartslayer’s movements. They charted the forest and even the sewer tunnels beneath the town so they always had a place to hide.

It could not be called happiness. It was never quite a family, but it was contentment.

goblinhordeThen one night the scouts of the Black Army had come to Mogarth’s cabin, three muttwhelps, like him. He had never seen so many altogether, and one, Bashka, was a female.

Odius Khan had emerged at the head of the united ork tribes from somewhere past the Broken Tooth Mountains, and allied his people with the Witch Queen and her numerous retainers among the dark folk of Wayphar. The animosity with which the five tribes regarded each other was legendary, and so this alliance under the great Odius was unprecedented. Combined with the might of the Witch Queen, it meant the end for the humans and the dwarves and even the elves and the fairies. It meant a new world for folk like him.

So Bashka and the other muttwhelps had told him.

He didn’t know now quite why he had bought into it so readily. Maybe it was the sight of Bashka. She had been no prize, certainly, with her too-broad hips and pendulous chest, her dripping snout and ornamented tusks, but nevertheless, she’d been female and willing. Maybe it was the thought of not having to live in isolation, or to pay well above the market price for the touch of some pinkskin woman.

So he and the Bellygashers had joined the Black Army. Orks, goblins, ogres, and trolls, all under the command of Odius Khan and the Ork Lords. They had skulked and scouted, fought and died, and he and Bashka had rolled and bucked to his content for a time.

But for what?

tolkien_the-hobbit_the-clouds-burst-3_hagueThe orks treated them no better than the humans had. The muttwhelps were worse than servants in camp, bullied and ordered about like slaves, as hated for their human blood as he had been by the valley dwellers for his father’s. Bashka was expected to present herself to any rank and file ork or ogre in the host, and did so readily, submissively, until the perennially drunken orks raucously encouraged her coupling with an overeager crag troll and she was killed, torn nearly asunder.

The gobbos fared no better. They were kicked around by the larger soldiers when they were noticed at all, and driven in the forefront of the fighting always, to die by the scores. The trolls dipped them in barrels of pitch and hurtled them over the walls of castles on fire. They were instructed to roll across the thatch roofs or run through the enemy stables for as long as they could, if they landed alive.

Mogarth and his Bellygashers avoided such treatment after Mogarth himself had set a precedent.

One day, not long after the death of Bashka, a burly Broken Tooth Clan sergeant had tried to bend him over a cask of bilemead. The Bellygashers had scurried out from nowhere and swarmed the offender, biting, clawing, stabbing, and digging in with their hooked iron ankle and elbow spurs all at once. The sergeant’s shrieking had brought his orks, and Mogarth had taken up his big iron cleaver and stood over the gobbos while they did their bloody work.

Of the score ork soldiers he faced down, four had tried to come through him to the aid of their superior. One he cut from the top of his head to the middle of his neck. The second he sheared off below the knees. The third he swept both eyes from, and the fourth died in a tug of war over his own innards with one of the ravenous camp wolves.

After that day the word spread through the orks that the muttwhelp called Mogarth and his goblins were not to be touched.

As a reminder, he stuck the sergeant’s gaping head on a pole outside their mule hide tents.

The gobbos had swatted the flies away every morning and picked the meat from the face by increments to chew on the march. It was just a grinning black skull now. Mogarth had carved designs into the tusks in his off time, and he wore them from a necklace, along with the claws of a werebear champion he had slain at the Battle of Kantrivone Grove.

The Black Army was relentless. They had scoured the eastern half of the continent in a bloody, four month campaign before returning west where Mogarth’s own journey had begun, here at the edge of the Valley of The Golden Lap.

Though he hated to admit it, Redshat was right. It was like coming home.

Except now, it was just the two of them…

http://www.amazon.com/Blackguards-Tales-Assassins-Mercenaries-Rogues-ebook/dp/B00WQJOCX4/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1430120131&sr=1-1&keywords=blackguards

It Came To Modesto Now Appearing In Atomic Age Cthulhu!

Hey hep cats, now on sale from Chaosium is Atomic Age Cthulhu, Lovecraftian madness in the 1950’s from editors Brian Sammons and Glynn Owen Barass.

Check out the table of contents –

“Bad Reception” by Jeffrey Thomas
“Fallout” by Sam Stone
“Little Curly” by Neil Baker
“The Terror That Came to Dounreay” by William Meikle
“The Romero Transference” by Josh Reynolds
“Within the Image of the Divine” by Bear Weiter
“Names on the Black List” by Robert Price
“Yellow is the Color of the Future” by Jason Andrew
“Eldritch Lunch” by Adam Bolivar
“Professor Patriot and the Doom that Came to Niceville” by Christine Morgan
“Fears Realized” by Tom Lynch
“Unamerican” by Cody Goodfellow
“The Preserved Ones” by Christopher M. Geeson
“Rose-Colored Glasses” by Michael Szymanski
“Day the Music Died” by Charles Christian
“Putnam’s Monster” by Scott T. Goudsward
“Operation Switch” by Peter Rawlik
“The End of the Golden Age” by Brian M. Sammons & Glynn Owen Barrass

My story, It Came To Modesto, sprang directly from my love of 50’s monster movies, particularly the American International Pictures I Was A Teenage Werewolf, I Was A Teenage Frankenstein, and How To Make A Monster. The original title of this story was I Was A Teenage….well, I won’t spoil it with the name. There’s definitely a bit of The Blob in there too.

Rambler-Rebel-1957-adgoldenhawkAnyway, it involves a seventeen year old kid, Georgie Colato, trying hard to fit into his new peer group in Modesto, California and running into a lot of resistance due to his mixed Italian and Mexican heritage. Georgie works most afternoons at his dad’s garage, and when a customer skips town and leaves his ’57 Rambler Rebel behind, Georgie takes it out nights, dreaming of racing it professionally. When Georgie butts heads with Jimmy Lucas, the captain of the high school football team over the attentions of a girl, Debbie, Georgie decides to pit the Rebel against Jimmy’s cherry red Studebaker Golden Hawk, with Debbie as the prize.  Yet during the race down the rural interstate on the outskirts, Jimmy pulls a fast one and Georgie wrecks, losing his arm in the crash.

Yet when he awakes in the basement of a strange house, the arm is restored….and he is not alone.

modestoOther inspirations behind It Came To Modesto are obviously Rebel Without A Cause, and my own father’s brief career as a drag racer in the late fifties/early sixties. He used to tell me stories about his car, a souped up Ford called the Grey Ghost. He street raced it until it was totaled in an intersection collision. I think I picked Modesto as the story’s setting after reading a bit about filmmaker George Lucas’ life changing crash in the 60’s, the one that steered him permanently from the career path of race car driving.

Here’s an excerpt —

Georgie couldn’t help staring at the girl’s swaying backside as she crossed the room to the wheeled cart sitting in a puddle of water next to the freezer.

She pushed it back to the table. When she stopped beside Golovkin, she reached into the tray and lifted a plastic bag about the size of a pillow. Sloshing inside it was a shifting mass of what looked like something shoveled off the floor of a slaughterhouse. It was pinkish and gray, and changed whenever Georgie tried to focus on it, all nipples and knuckle bones and a sudden bloom like an ear or a black animal eye popping open, rolling in between a pair of lids and then disappearing.

The whole mixture was swimming in some bloody liquid, like the drippings of defrosted chicken, and seemed to be constantly moving, though the girl wasn’t shaking the bag. Maybe it was the gas again, playing tricks on his eyes.

He laid his head back and closed his eyes to stop the spinning world.

Golovkin’s voice droned into his Dictaphone.

“The Freygan method was an unwieldy undertaking, and made no considerations for the psychological effect of symbiosis. The end result was oft-times uncontrollable, savage. Working from the recovered Greenwood notes, I have streamlined the treatment considerably, substituting the use of parabolic reflectors with an infusion of vita-rays and a catalytic compound developed by the Mi-go. Combined with the regular introduction of Liao-gas to encourage psychic adaptation, the first stage of the process is for the most part, quite painless.”

Georgie looked from the old man to the girl. She was leaning over, upending the bag. The weird stuff was sliding slowly from it, plopping wetly, like a quaking afterbirth into the tray. With it came an awful, fishy stink.

Somehow his bandages had been unwrapped. It was shocking to see the point where his left arm simply ended in a ragged stump. He couldn’t see the wound well, but the lack of his left arm was enough to make him whimper.

The girl slapped the gas mask over his face. He breathed deep reflexively.

His eyes went to the girl, lingered tantalizingly on her form. She was older than him. Maybe a college girl. He could see the white mounds of cleavage through her open jacket, straining against the black top she wore beneath. Her lips were so red.

When the mask came away, his head slumped to the table, no will in him to lift it.

His eyes went to the silver tray.

Something dragged itself ponderously over the lip. It bubbled and boiled. The bubbles sprouted a dozen tiny human eyes that rolled and blinked. It flopped down onto the table and oozed towards his stump.

He wanted to scream but he couldn’t summon any effort.

He felt a sharp tug at his shoulder then. A vertical fissure had opened in the mound of fleshy ooze, wide enough to fit around his stump. The edges of the opening changed multiple times. At one point it sprouted shaggy hairs, and mimicked a pair of giant lips, and then it rippled and diminished.

He felt nauseous. Then something was in his mind. Not the voice of Golovkin, not his own confused thoughts.

Something new.

teenageror

———-

Atomic Age Cthulhu is on sale now!

http://www.amazon.com/Atomic-Age-Cthulhu-Mythos-Chaosium-Fiction/dp/1568823983/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1427731255&sr=8-3&keywords=atomic+age+cthulhu

MechaWest Kickstarter Is Live!

Deadwood-copyA howling westerly wind blows down the center of a wide, dusty street, carrying with it a vagabond tumbleweed and the unmistakable smells of gun oil and fear.

A lone figure steps off the boardwalk into the street, lowering the wide brim of his hat against the wind. Shutters and doors slam as he passes, as if any of them can shut out the violence that’s to come.

The man’s spurs clink on the heels of his boots, the tail of his duster flaps and balloons behind him, offering hints of the tools of his trade. Poised like blunted horns in the holsters tied to his legs are the walnut grips of a pair of .44 pistols.

The man reaches the center of the street and hooks his coat behind the butts of his pistols.

“Alright, marshal!” he roars, elbows bent, fingers stroking the handles of his revolvers. “You called down the thunder, now come on out and catch the lightning!”

There is a whirring, hissing sound, and big shadow falls across the man in the street.

The shadow of his hat brim recedes as he cranes his neck upward, and his narrow eyes widen.

BLAM!

The shot echoes, a tremendous cannon crash that rattles the windows and makes the horses kick over the troughs and roll their eyes and scream all up and down the avenue.

When the dense, acrid cloud of smoke clears, a pair of smoking boots and a charred hat turning in place like a fallen penny in the middle of a dark patch of scorched ground are all that’s left of the gunman.

A clanking conglomeration of iron and steel, three times the size of a man, twirls a massive, smoking Colt revolver on its armored finger, then drops it into a holster the size of a steer on its jointed, rust spotted hip.

The metal man’s face creaks open and a grizzled looking man with grey whiskers and a star on his vest grins a yellow grin.

“Looks like you came underdressed to this occasion, Billy,” the marshal says through his cheroot….

photo-original

Readers of this blog will be aware of my fondness for and recent rediscovery of tabletop roleplaying games. Well, I went and wrote one.

This is MechaWest, bringing the anime giant robot suit action of Heroic Journey Publishing’s Mecha roleplaying game system to the American Old West. Here high noon showdowns are fought in lumbering iron suits, powered by chugging boilers burning coal and wood. Cowboys race among lowing cattle in fleet footed rooster walkers, ready with lasso launchers, branding irons and barb wire clipper arms, and Indian Iron Killer Societies eschew the white man’s technology, using ingenious guerrilla tactics to bring shining blue and gold cavalry mecha crashing to their literal knees.

In the alternate history of MechaWest fighting mecha have been around since the Napoleonic Wars in the form of elegant clockwork suits of oak and tin worn by officers and gentlemen duelists, moving jerkily up and down the lines of battle with large flowing capes, and sweeping through lines of infantry with gargantuan rapiers.

But when American engineer Robert Fulton places a steam engine into an old clockwork knight the gilded age of gentlemanly dueling ends and a new era of mechanized warfare begins. The first mecha see service in the Mexican War of Independence, new iron armored suits effectively retiring the Army of Spain and their outdated clockwork mecha.

MG-1-033-6In the subsequent Mexican American war, gunsmith Samuel Colt invents a repeating fire weapon that turns each mecha into a walking battalion. Then abolitionists John Brown and Frederick Douglass seize a squad of mecha from the federal armory in Harpers Ferry, Virginia and lead an army of free slaves into the West Virginia mountains, forming the free state of New Africa and touching off the American Civil War. When blue and gray machines clash, the conflict is catastrophic.

The harsh necessities of the post-war American West mother strange inventions, from the circling Steel Schooners of the pioneers to transforming mecha-trains that dig their own tunnels and transform to fight off robbers.

Quanah_Parker_c1890calamity-janePlayers in MechaWest can work for a cattle baron’s outfit, piloting swift iron giants with to herd beef across hostile Native American lands, or as the Iron Killers, elite warriors who bring down the white man’s metal machines with whatever resources they can muster. Maybe riding as an Iron Ranger, splitting their time chasing Indians and bringing justice to marauding outlaws are more their bag, or perhaps dodging the law in a rattletrap mecha held together with baling wire and burning moonshine, sporting the latest illegal weaponry is more their style.

When the ‘Chinese Freemen Syndicate’ seizes the mines and railroads they worked to build en masse and fort up in their Celestial Territories with flame throwing Dragon Mecha and daring highbinder pilots, the possibilities open up even more. Do the players want to play as a band of Chinese agents in exotic, sought-after mecha? Do they want to plays as the US Cavalry, mounting punitive expeditions against marauding tribes or besieging the Celestial Territories for much needed resources?

Independent warlords, cattle barons and criminal organizations all seek to rule the frontier with steam driven iron fists. And amongst every faction pass the Gunfighters, deft pilots-for-hire, each with their own agenda.

This is the era of MechaWest…

Written by myself and Jeff Carter, and based on Chris Perrin’s core rpg system Mecha, with Wayne Humfleet and Mark Reed.

We have thirty days to reach our art and production goal. Please head over there and kick a buck.

http://kck.st/1AdS0Li

 

Published in: on March 11, 2015 at 10:17 am  Leave a Comment  
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Coming In August From Random House: Andersonville

Now up for preorder is my Civil War supernatural horror novel Andersonville.

As we entered the place, a spectacle met our eyes that almost froze our blood with horror, and made our hearts fail within us. Before us were forms that had once been active and erect;—stalwart men, now nothing but mere walking skeletons, covered with filth and vermin. Many of our men, in the heat and intensity of their feeling, exclaimed with earnestness. “Can this be hell?” – Sgt. Major Robert H. Kellogg, 16th Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, May 2nd, 1864.

In 1864, thousands of hopeless Union prisoners, wasting away to nothing in the overcrowded, disease-rampant confines of Camp Sumter military prison, prayed for a way out.

One man fought to get in….

I’m very excited to see this book finally coming your way in August.

More details about it as the release date approaches.

You can preorder it here.

http://www.amazon.com/Andersonville-Edward-M-Erdelac-ebook/dp/B00TWDZZGK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1425575076&sr=8-1&keywords=andersonville+erdelac

Corrupts Absolutely Returns!

Hey all, a while back I appeared in a dark superhuman fiction anthology called Corrupt’s Absolutely, compiled by editor Lincoln Crisler and featuring fiction from Jeff Strand, Weston Ochse, Peter Clines, Tim Marquitz, Malon Edwards, Wayne Helge, Cat Rambo, and a ton of other talented folks.

My own contribution was a story called Conviction, which you can read about here.

Corrupts Absolutely is back with a brand new publisher (Ragnarok, which will be putting out my novella collection With Sword And Pistol later this year) and brand new cover art. There are also a couple brand new stories included in this edition.

So if you missed it on the first go-round, here’s your second chance.

http://www.amazon.com/Corrupts-Absolutely-Peter-Clines-ebook/dp/B00TNX3KGQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1424280619&sr=8-1&keywords=corrupt%27s+absolutely

Thy Just Punishments in That Hoodoo, Voodoo That You Do from Angelic Knight/Ragnarok

Today editor and author Lincoln Crisler delivers another bouncing baby anthology, THAT HOODOO, VOODOO THAT YOU DO: A DARK RITUALS ANTHOLOGY with the help of Angelic Knight/Ragnarok Publications, the same fine folks who’ll be bringing you my novella collection WITH SWORD AND PISTOL this August.

Hoodoo-Front

The book has a great lineup (and an excellent cover by Shawn King and Joe Martin) –

“Sa fè lontan / Long Time, No See” by Sarah Hans
“Young Girls Are Coming to Ajo” by Ken Goldman
“Into the Mirror Black” by Tim Marquitz
“Severed” by Brandon Ford
“Afflicted” by A.J. Brown
“A Little Bit of Soul” by Craig Cook
“Coughs and Sneezes” by James K. Isaac
“Secret Suicide” by Amy Braun
“Wounds” by Greg Chapman
“Sturm und Drang” by Jeff C. Carter
“Shades of Hades” by E.J. Alexander
“For Love” by DJ Tyrer
“Gingerbread Man” by Rose Strickman
“Johnny Two Places” by Mark Mellon
“The Seed” by N.X. Sharps
“Late Payment” by Jake Elliot
“Masquerade” by C.A. Rowland
“Lessons from a Victory Garden” by Jason Andrew
“The Projectionist” by Timothy Baker
“The Right Hand Man” by J.S. Reinhardt
“Paper Craft” by Leigh Saunders

For my own offering, THY JUST PUNISHMENTS, I reached back into my own Roman Catholic upbringing for a tale of murder and (I hope) laughs.

It’s inspired by a throwaway line by Ward Bond in THE QUIET MAN (“I’ll read yer name in the Mass!”) which refers to the old belief that reading the name of a live person in the requiem for the dead portion of the Mass will result in their untimely death.

I was an altar boy in a Polish parish, and for this story, recalled a lot of the various draconian sisters, slightly inebriated priests, and disapproving old parishioners I have known.

THY JUST PUNISHMENTS concerns the matter of South Boston pastor Father Tim O’Herlihey, a bitter old racehorse aficionado who feeds his gambling addiction by regularly enacting a dark and blasphemous ritual under the noses of his parishioners, reading the names provided to him by a contract killer for the Southie Irish mob and then splitting the profit with him when the victims wind up dead. But when the neighboring parish closes for renovations a crotchety old lady named Mary Ladhe starts paying peculiarly close attention to his doings, and Father Tim finds himself matching wits with a lady of the Old Country, of the Old Magic….

Here’s an excerpt.

————————-

Twenty bucks later he had a black rooster in the kitty carrier and was on his way back to the church.

The sun had gone down and Eladio had locked up the church, but Father Tim had his keys.

He locked the door behind him, went into the sacristy, and changed into his vestments, taking the old red iron knife that had been his great uncle’s from the lock box at the bottom of his closet. He took the carrier out to the altar and lit the candles.

He laid out the chalice, missal, and the black corporal, and began the orate fratres.

“Orate, fratres, ut meum ac vestrum sacrificium acceptabile fiat apud Deum Patrem omnipotentem.”

The greatest injustice to the Roman rite had been the Vatican’s abandonment of Latin. His uncle had always told him that old words had power, and English diluted that power.

sanctuaryHe had loved the old Latin mass since his boyhood, and as an altar boy had not confined himself to the responses, but memorized even the priest’s words. Indeed, he had imagined himself not a mere server, but a kind of acolyte in the sacred traditions, a boy-priest on a mystic path. He sometimes fancied in his most blasphemous moments that the opulent house of God with its marble floors and golden accoutrements was his own throne room.

Then once during a particularly early mass, he had mistakenly dashed the silver paten against the edge of the altar and the Holy Eucharist had fallen to the floor. Just a clumsy, daydreaming boy’s mistake, but the entire congregation had let out a collective gasp that had colored his cheeks and ears.

The disapproving scowl of Father John as he stooped over to retrieve the Host by hand had solidified his embarrassment, and to make matters worse, Sister Doligosa had slapped him in the sacristy when he’d returned to change out of his cassock after mass.

“You serve like a cowboy,” the wrinkled old woman had scolded.

He’d been eleven, and run from the church with stinging tears.

He’d been something of a bad boy after that, smoking, profaning, drinking, fleeing wholly from the church in frustrated anger. He had decided that in that moment of innocent clumsiness, he’d been afforded a glimpse at the true nature of so-called believers; that they put more stock in pomp and ritual than in the true love of God.

Hypocrites.

Yet his dear mother had been worried at his turn around, and sent him off to spend time with his great Uncle Patrick, a priest himself from the old country, though of a decidedly different kind than any he’d ever met before or since.

Uncle Patrick had seen the anger in the boy, and one day coaxed the story of why he’d all but abandoned his faith.

To Tim’s surprise, Uncle Patrick had said;

“It’s entirely right you are, Tim. The world is populated wholly by dumb bleating sheep with no understanding whatsoever of the power of the Mass. The Mass is nothing less than magic, Tim. Magic passed down to us from the agents of the gods. And through it,” he said, touching the side of his red nose and winking one sky blue eye, “those with the knowing can bend the will of the angels to our own purpose.”

Tim recited the sursum coda,  sang the trisanctus and the hosanna, and then unlocked the carrier and took out the twitching black cockerel.

Now, with relish, he lifted the clucking chicken high with the iron knife and recited the consecration, the ultimate blasphemy, naming the fowl the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

The knife was a relic of the Old Religion, Uncle Patrick had said, given to a monk named Finnian by one of the legendary Tuatha De, the magic folk of Old Ireland, Tuan mac Cairill.  The story was that the monk had sought out Tuan and preached the Gospel to him. Tuan had told the monk of his own gods, and that the monk Finnian had realized the folly of Christianity, and pledged himself to Tuan’s instruction. Tuan, knowing that Christ had conquered his people, saw an opportunity to keep their memory alive and strike at the Church from within. He bestowed Finnian with the sacred sacrificial knife, and the monk became the first of a secret line of priests who paid lip service to Christ but honored the old gods, and perverted the Mass to their ends whenever they could.

And so Tim had become the latest of that ancient line.

He passed the sacred knife of Tuan beneath the beak of the rooster and lets its blood piddle into the chalice.

When it was drained, he raised the brimming cup of blood and the dead animal carcass again to the empty church and proclaimed;

 “Per ipsum et cum ipso et in ipso est tibi Deo Patri omnipotenti in unitate Spiritus Sancti omnis honor et gloria per omnia saecula saeculorum.”

He recited the rest of the rite of transubstantiation, broke the chicken’s neck symbolically, and laid it on the paten.

Then, he recited in Gaelic the age old curse;

“Michael O’Bannon –

No butter be on your milk nor on your ducks a web

May your child not walk and your cow be flayed

And may the flame be bigger and wider

Which will go through your soul

Than the Connemara mountains

If they were a-fire.”

He raised the cup to his lips and downed the warm iron-tasting blood.

That night, as ever, he roasted and ate the chicken.

—————————-

I’m very proud of this story and hope enjoy it.

It can be gotten here –

http://www.amazon.com/That-Hoodoo-Voodoo-You-Anthology-ebook/dp/B00SQG9FFQ/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1422302407&sr=8-2&keywords=that+hoodoo+voodoo

Sláinte chuig na fir, agus go mairfidh na mná go deo!

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