Last Danse: The Exclusive in Danse Macabre

Now available from EDGE Publishing is Danse Macabre: Close Encounters With The Reaper, featuring stores from Brian Lumley, Lisa Morton, William Meikle, Tom Piccirilli, Gabriel Boutros, Brad Carson, Suzanne Church, Dan Devine, Lorne Dixon, Tom Dullemond, Opal Edgar, Ian M. Emberson, Sabrina Furminger, Stanley S. Hampton, Sr., Brian Hodge, Nancy Holder & Erin Underwood, J. Y. T. Kennedy, Nancy Kilpatrick, Tanith Lee, Morgan Dempsey, Timothy Reynolds, Angela Roberts, Lawrence Salani, Lucy Taylor, Bev Vincent, Bill Zaget and yours truly.

The brainchild of editor Nancy Kilpatrick, Danse Macabre is inspired by the macabre art of 14th century plague-wracked Europe, those amazing woodcuts, sculptures, and paintings of the grinning, skeletal Grim Reaper whirling hapless mortals of every class and creed in prancing, strangely joyous dance of Death.  The central theme of the anthology is the various ways in which mortal men and women might encounter Death as a personification.

My own entry, The Exclusive, is set in the 1880’s. A crusading newspaper editor finds himself eating his own words when a group of violent gunmen hired by a corrupt rancher smash his office, drag him out of town, lash him to his printing press and toss him in the river. When a strange, naked man apparently saves him from a watery grave, realization soon dawns, and he finds himself with a unique opportunity for a one on one interview with the most infamous killer the world has ever known.

For my own depiction of Death, I chose to elaborate on the Jewish fable of Lilith the first woman portrayed in The Alphabet of Ben Sirach, and her apocryphal love affair with the angel Samael, with whom she conceived the first demons and who in some accounts, became the Angel of Death.

Readers of my Merkabah Rider series will recognize this take on the story of Lilith and Samael’s doomed love affair – it plays an important role in those books. I saw this as an opportunity to expand a little on their story through the eyes of a character not tied up in the epic cosmic events of Merkabah Rider.

Here’s a short excerpt – – –

“I remember the last time I saw her, before they sealed me in this prison. She was clothed in animal skins. I had never seen such a thing. She was a fierce, golden spirit twice-wrapped in death. So willful. She would have stared God in the face if that act wouldn’t have burned her to nothingness. But she didn’t even look at Michael as he passed sentence. She looked at me. And there were tears running from her eyes. The blood of the human soul.”

They were quiet for a long time, Death and Twiggs. Death’s thoughts were inscrutable, but Twiggs’ were of Junia and the last time he’d seen her. It was the last time he would ever see her.

“For the first thousand years,” Sam said, “I punished you mortals. I tore your souls from this earth and shook you like babes wakened in the night by enemy soldiers. I flung you into hell wailing. I laughed to see you scream. I concocted new perversities to inflict upon every soul I was called to claim, and each one I think plummeted into hell a little less sane than the last. I think I was insane myself. I have danced with the dying, swung them around and around to music only I could hear only to cast them into the inferno on the last go ’round. I emptied my heart in hatred of you until I became a great scar. Then my sadism bored me, and I spoke little at all. All the crimes I committed were useless. No soul came to me dreading what I had done before. Each feared only the change I represented. Once I sat silently on the soul of a man for eight years, just to watch him gibber beneath me like an animal.”

“Well,” said Twiggs, “I’m glad you’re past that period, anyway.”

—-

Danse Macabre features some amazing stories, and I’m not just saying that because I’m in it. Lisa Morton’s The Secret Engravings (about the plague artist Hans Holbein The Younger’s strange patron), Brian Hodge’s For I Must Be About My Father’s Work (a hitman who upon hearing a victim’s desperate prayers, decides to wait along with him to see if God intervenes), La Senora Blanca (an old Mexican woman’s confrontation with the goddess of criminals, Santa Muerte) by Lucy Taylor were particular standouts for me. I can’t recommend them enough.

You can pick up Danse Macabre here from the publisher  http://www.edgewebsite.com/books/dansemacabre/dansemacabre.html

Or on Amazon.

Hasta pronto!

 

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Merkabah Rider: Once Upon A Time In The Weird West Preview

What happens in the fourth and final book of the Merkabah Rider series? Read the prologue of Merkabah Rider: Once Upon A Time In The Weird West below.

What’s Merkabah Rider? Read about it  right HERE.

In honor of Yom Kippur, The Day Of The Atonement, the holiest twenty six hours in the Judaic calendar (and as loyal readers of the Rider will know, the day in 1882 that the Hour Of Incursion comes upon us), from now until sundown tomorrow (or 6:30 Pacific Time) every reader who comments on this post, I’ll send a free copy of either:

Merkabah Rider: Tales Of A High Planes Drifter

Merkabah Rider 2: The Mensch With No Name

or Merkabah Rider 3: Have Glyphs Will Travel

– your choice of title, your choice of format (pdf, epub or mobi).  Just tell me below in the comments section (one per comment/visitor).

And if you’re a Luddite like me, send an email to emerdelacATgmailDOTcom with Yom Kippur as the subject line.

Then at 6:30pm on Wednesday night (the 26th), I’ll draw a random recipient’s name from the old ten gallon yarmulke. The winner gets a signed copy of Merkabah Rider: Tales Of A High Planes Drifter AND Merkabah Rider 2: The Mensch With No Name.

Without further to-do, here’s the first pages of MR IV:OUATITWW – AND a first gander at the cover by (dare I say it? I do) the magnificent Pat Carbajal, who will also be providing eight (count ’em) eight bee-you-tiful interior black and white illustrations.

Prologo

The diggers, drunks and saddle tramps all, nominally paw the earth with spades, knowing not why, only that they are paid well and in gold to do very little.

The tracklayers pause as the swing gang reaches the shade of the Huachuca Mountains, and in the seventh hekhalot the dread angel Metatron, once Enoch, dips its bright pen in the inkwell of eternity. Three descend upon the earth, perhaps for the final time.

In the Dreamlands, the Thunder of God seeks the Other to no avail.

In the lowest region of hell, in the marble city of Pandæmonium, Lucifer fidgets on his throne and sets aside the Damnatus Damnateum as Temelechus strokes the hide of Nehema with a glowing iron flail. She shrieks her gratitude.

Simultaneously, a man of God and a man of science each realize that the stars will soon be right and snap their respective books closed.

At midnight, just outside Kearney, Missouri, the squeaking wheels of a bone laden wagon cease their revolution and a dozen black garbed figures bearing shovels and prybars slink toward a grave, where grass has not yet sprouted over the body of Jesse James.

In the bleak fields of the Jornada Del Muerto, a preacher of wavering faith, strung with canteens and waterskins, bows his head and bends his iron legs, his frightened, murmuring prayers lost in a hiss of venting steam.

A master engraver pauses, surveying his final, terrible work. He wipes the sweat and tears from his eyes, and wishes he had listened to his wife. Then he puts his chisel to a gilded smokebox door.

A blue skinned killer passes a cracked leather map case across a polished desk to the delight of a pair of madmen.

A girl notices a stranger’s smile spread across her father’s face.

The thing that calls itself Adam Belial in this universe howls in wild triumph and the whole of Creation shudders.

In the dense void beyond, gibbering things ripple with excitement and colossal shapes turn in their precarious fluid slumber.

An engorged, tame beast stirs to the trill of distant piping, remembers what it once was, and strains against its chain.

An old, old gentleman in a blue suit and top hat places a pressed lilac on a smoldering mountain pyre of one of the thirty six hidden saints and heads west, where a dreadful infant and a one armed soldier wait within a carved vardo, and a pale, scar-eared onnager vies with a team of ornery camels for a space to graze.

A burned woman counts the hours.

And somewhere the Rider meets The Chief Angel of Death…

-Hasta pronto!

UPDATE:  Thanks to all who participated in the giveaway. If you enjoy Merkabah Rider, please tell a friend or a stranger via Amazon/Goodreads or what have you. Congratulations to Frank Schildiner, who won a signed copy of Merkabah Rider: Tales Of A High Planes Drifter and Merkabah Rider 2: The Mensch With No Name. – Ed

Fantasy Book Review Talks Up Merkabah Rider 2

Josh and Ryan over at Fantasy Book Review over in the UK (though they sound like Australians or New Zealanders to me so maybe I’m just going by the UK in the web address) talked up the Merkabah Rider series on their podcast, as a prelude to Ryan’s review of Merkabah Rider 2: The Mensch With No Name.

You can give it a listen over here – my bit starts at 56:28.

http://www.fantasybookreview.co.uk/fbrblog/fbr-cast-002-pirates-ahoy/

Hasta pronto,

Ed

Win A Signed Copy Of Buff Tea On Goodreads

Hey all, for the summer I’m running a giveaway on Goodreads of my western novel Buff Tea from Texas Review Press.

In 1874 a boy leaves a comfortable life in Chicago and heads west to work on the burgeoning railroad, quickly finding the labor not to his liking. He joins a disparate group of itinerant buffalo hunters led by a tough old ex-Indian fighter named War Bag Tyler and they pass into Texas to participate in the great slaughter. The season draws to a close and death strikes the outfit. War Bag swears a Cheyenne Dog Soldier from his past is responsible. As War Bag plots a new hunt, a hunt for the Cheyenne, the boy must choose between life and death.

You can read an excerpt right here –

https://emerdelac.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/buff-tea-an-excerpt/

And this will take you directly to the giveaway.

http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/28249-buff-tea

Suerte!

Music To Murder By: Aural Pleasures In Gully Gods, The Crawlin’ Chaos Blues, And The Merkabah Rider Series

A lot of writers I know talk about the music they listen to while they write, how it inspires them. I have never been musically inclined and I need almost total silence to write most of the time. I find music distracting, particularly if it has lyrics, or if I associate it with something else, like a movie soundtrack or something.

There have been three notable exceptions, Gully Gods (from Four In The Morning) The Crawlin’ Chaos Blues, and Merkabah Rider.

I still don’t listen to music while I’m writing, but for these three works there are certain songs I’ve found myself listening to (usually in the car) to get me in the mindset. Particularly for Gully Gods and Crawlin’ Chaos, which both mention a couple of these tracks in the body of the story.

‘It was real hot that night, August in Houston. Me and B and Cripto was chillin’ in the Subway parking lot smokin’ beedies and eatin’ footlongs over the trunk of his ride (a tricked out two toned black and grey’92  Buick Roadmaster nigga called The Batmobile – had chrome bats on the dub spinners) and listenin’ to ‘Face when a pickup full of Southside Cholos pulled up and got out…’

‘Face is Brad T. Jordan, the Houston rapper Scarface, formerly of the Geto Boys. If you’ve seen Office Space you’ve heard him. Apparently like me,  Mike Judge is a big fan. He even appears as the pimp Upgrayyde in Judge’s Idiocracy.

Something about Scarface’s voice and delivery reminds me of one of my all time favorite musicians, Chester Burnett AKA Howlin’ Wolf. But I’ll talk about him later. Like the Wolf, Scarface has a distinctively deep voice, almost like a minister’s. I would call him a minister of rage and darkness. His lyrics are vivid and emotionally evocative (‘I’ve got this killer up inside/of me I can’t talk to my mother/so I talk to my diary – and ‘Outside I see the cop cars flashin they lights/Raindrops symbolizing God is saving the life/The sun shining so they say the devil beatin his wife/The body bloody underneath the sheet is waitin for Christ/The streets is hungry- so I know they watchin -waitin to strike/But anything you ever got for easy came with a price’), and he swings wildly from violent, reprehensible glorification of a violent life, to deeply spiritual condemnation – but in the latter, never preachy or accusatory. He’s a pioneer of the southern Dirty South sound, something the movie Hustle & Flow portrays pretty well.

The song J-Hoss and Bruce Wayne are listening to in the parking lot is an old but a goody that sets the tone for the entire novella – Scarface’s Never Seen A Man Cry Till I Seen A Man Die –

Another one from Scarface that I listened to again and again and sort of informed the mentality of my protagonist and the various characters was G-Code –

‘She so damn fine. She move perfect. Like a curtain in the breeze, her hips be swayin.’

She smile and come in close and we be grindin’ up against each other. She smell real good.

“You like this music?” she ask. She got to lean in close and talk in my ear, and her breath is hot and sweet like gum.

“Uh huh,” I say. “It’s old ain’t it?”

“Yeah,” she say. “A couple years. Tres Delincuentes. You know what they’re saying?”

She cross her wrists behind the back of my neck and watch me and I put my hands on her waist, feel it sliding side to side, warm under my hands.

“Uh uh,” I say.

The song in this passage is Delinquent Habits by Tres Delincuentes. It’s kind of a West Coast Mexican hip hop tune, but it’s a great party song. I love the incorporation of the mariachi brass.

‘Then I hear the music. It ain’t from the party. It’s this heavy 808 thumpin,’ comin’ down the ave. Ain’t no oompa doompa, neither. It’s somethin’ old school. Familiar.

  I turn my head, cheek to the street, and see a pair of headlights comin’ slow down the block. Brights be on, bright as a pair of suns. They higher off the ground than a car.

It stop a couple feet away.

All of us be in the headlights, but nobody lay offa me. They just all of ‘em turn and look.

The doors open and the music gets louder. I ain’t heard that shit in forever. It be The D.O.C. My pops used to play that shit in his ride. Ridin’ with him with the stereo bumpin,’ be one of the only memories I got of him.

A couple dark shapes get out and stand in front of the headlights. Them lights is so bright you can’t see shit but two motherfuckers standing there like a couple of shadows.’

The song in this passage is ‘It’s Funky Enough’ by the D.O.C. It’s pretty old, but I figured the Liberians might’ve just been getting into it. It’s got a menacing beat, very aggressive sounding, well suited to the scene, but it’s probably one of the most G-rated songs on this page, funny enough. The D.O.C. is one of hip-hop’s great tragedies. He did one promising solo album and promptly lost his voice in an injury sustained in a car accident. He’s gone on to be a successful producer and I heard he might be at last getting some kind of corrective surgery this year.

Stallone and Merciless throw Pocho in the chair and grab hold of him. Gravefilla take the guns over to a table and start layin’ ‘em in a drawer.

 I go over with the pliers. The brown brown make me feel like this a video game or somethin’ – like I ain’t even in my body. I ain’t even doin’ what I doin.’

Hitler turn on the boombox, and some heavy shit old school shit come thumpin’ out. Music to murder by.

“Yo, fuck you mayates,” Pocho yell. He sound all fucked up ‘cause his teeth busted. “You just better fuckin’ kill me. ‘Cause I get loose I’ma kill me some niggers.”

I reach out with the pliers and I catch that piece of skin and bone between his nostrils. His whole body lock up like I got him by the nuts.

“You like movies, mayne. How you like the Three Stooges?”

For that scene I had two songs in mind. Firstly the Boston-born group Gang Starr and their Take It Personal.  The world lost a real talent when MC Guru (Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal) passed away recently. Talk about your distinctive voices.

The other was NWA’s Real Niggaz Don’t Die – possibly one of the angriest, most intense and vitriolic mainstays in their catalog. If you’re easily offended, don’t click on this one.

I’ve already talked about Howlin’ Wolf’s influence on my Lovecraftian blues short story The Crawlin’ Chaos Blues over at Greg Mitchell’s blog. I hate repeating myself, so go take a look at it.

Back?

OK then.

Songs that show up in The Crawlin’ Chaos Blues –

When I first seen King Yeller, he was leanin’ on a beer sign watchin’ that Lake Street L clackin’ overhead, one bent Kool stuck in his lips, beatin’ out ‘I Ain’t Superstitious’ as best he could on a rusty ‘ol National with a pocket knife for a slide.

Crammed into the corner with a jumpin’ band was the man hisself, Howlin’ Wolf, all three hundred pounds of him, black as pig iron and sweatin’ like a steam engine, crawling on all fours, rollin’ his eyes, and flickin’ his tongue like a snake. He was wailin’ ‘Evil’ into a microphone and he sure looked like a man possessed by a devil. He was too big for the place, so goddamned big when he stood up and put his harp between his hands and blew he looked about to swallow it whole.

Yeller had picked out one of them fine biscuits in the crowd and was singin’ straight at her. She was that devil-eyed type woman lay her business on you, make you forget your own name, how much money you got in your pocket. She seen what Yeller was about right off, and she give him a smile over her man’s shoulder. That gap in her two front teeth let you know she liked to get her jelly rolled. He played ‘Come On In My Kitchen’ at her, and then ‘One Way Out,’ and by the time he finished up, her man had took notice.

Now for The Merkabah Rider series, there are a few tracks I listen to to put me in the mood, though of course, none of them actually appear in the books.

As you might suspect, most of them are Ennio Morricone pieces. In particular these.

And legendary bluegrass mandolin master Bill Monroe’s My Last Days On Earth. If any song encompasses the entirety of the series and the feel I’m trying to portray, it’d be this one.

My friend Ryan Gerossie also put together this book trailer using music we both composed and played (I did the Jaw harp and the monotonous guitar tune) for the indie film we did together in 2009, Meaner Than Hell (you can watch the trailer on the sidebar). This tune is sort of my default Rider theme (though if I had my way I’d find a way to mix some kind of klezmer or Hebrew chanting in there).

Anyway, listen. Broaden your horizons. Enjoy.

World Horror Con 2012, The Stoker Awards, and Salt Lake City by Day and Night

So I’m back from the World Horror Convention and Stoker Awards, which was held this past weekend in Salt Lake City, Utah.

WHC was unlike other conventions I have attended, and I was a bit unprepared frankly. The ratio of creators and publishers to fans and readers was a bit more lopsided than I’m used to. I arrived at WHC hoping to have a good reading, get the word of my books out, and sell copies of Merkabah Rider. Well, the reading turnout was pretty sparse and I sold maybe a handful of books compared to my usual haul. I should’ve expected this, being in the room with luminaries like Robert McCammon, Mike Mignola, Rick Haulata, and one of my literary heroes, Joe R. Lansdale, to say nothing of really talented authors like Joe McKinney, Weston Ochse, Jeff Strand, William F. Nolan, and a slew of others.

But, I was a bit on the low side come Saturday night. Understand, a lot contributed to my bad mood besides the going generally unnoticed for the first half of the Con.

First off, when my flight got in I was operating on about three hours of sleep thanks to some last minute book proposal preparations and general packing stuff. I flew in with Del Howison, proprietor of Dark Delicacies books in Burbank, which I think is the largest bookstore specializing in horror in the country, and the very talented Mr. John Skipp. Not to say I flew in with them as in together. We’d never met.  I recognized Del by his famous snow white mane, and John introduced himself when he found out I was heading to WHC as well, and then graciously introduced me to Del. I wanted to get in with these guys, but I’m a terrible gladhander, particularly when I’m sleep deprived, and I’m afraid beyond the handshake, I didn’t make much of an impression.

So I was sort of beating my head against the cab window about that all the way to the Motel 6, and I just wanted to crawl into bed and catch up on my sleep till I had to be at the Radisson for my first event, which I think was the Kaffee Klatch with Joe R. Lansdale. Arriving at what would be my accomodations for the next three days however, I received my first real blow. The lobby and half the rooms were under rennovation, and the other half of the place was occupied by Latter Day Saint Church members who had flown in for some big annual meeting or address.

The guy suggested I come back around 2pm.

This was at 10AM.

So that meant not only no sleep, but a mile and a half hike to the Radisson with all my crap, and no prospect of sleep at the other end of it.

Tim Marquits, Yours Truly, Lincoln Crisler, Karina Fabian

I phoned my fellow Damnation Books authors, live-action GI Joe Lincoln Crisler (editor on Corrupts Absolutely? and author of WILD) and my sometime editor Tim Marquitz (author of Dawn of War and The Demon Squad series) and they kindly offered to let me crash in their room at the Radisson. However, when I got there, I found the excitement of meeting these two long time e-collaborators to be too lively an occasion to spend unconscious. We blathered back and forth for a while (there’d been a SNAFU between Lightning Source and UPS and the copies of Corrupts Absolutely? Lincoln had worked like hell to promote weren’t going to arrive in time to premiere at the con – no copies of my own Merkabah Rider 3: Have Glyphs Will Travel either), then went down and commiserated a bit with Kim and William Richards of Damnation Books.

I then headed to the meet and greet with Joe R. Lansdale.

I’ve talked to Joe now and then on Facebook (we both hated the Matrix and loved Real Steel), but meeting the guy in person got me a bit fidgety in an unfortunately fanboy sorta way.  They say you should never meet your heroes, but Joe was just as funny and personable and easy going as you’d want your heroes to be. It was a bit of a one man show, but what the hell, nobody’d come to hear me talk, and in my experience people from Texas either talk a blue streak or hardly at all. I was frankly glad it was the former so it just wasn’t a bunch of us goombahs staring at each other.

Bruce Lee? Yeah, you might call me a fan.

The guy cited Robert E. Howard and quoted Bruce Lee and echoed most of my own thoughts on the writing work ethic and always keeping your reading horizons as broad as possible. Wish I’d had the opportunity to sit down and just have a beer with the guy, but I think maybe I was a bit starstruck.  I mean, Joe Lansdale. For me, there’s Howard, Matheson, and Lansdale. Meeting Kazuo Koike a few years back in San Diego is the only thing that’s come remotely close for me.As it was, after the deal was done, I sought him out at his table (where he was sitting with Robert McCammon and his awesome wife Karen, all three of them co-founders of the HWA) and told him that he was the second guy I’d dedicated the first installment in the Merkabah Rider series to (the first being Bob Howard), and that I’d just like him to have a copy.  He thanked me, and asked me to sign it for him, and I in turn asked him to sign my copy of Dead In The West.

Without Dead In The West and Joe’s Jonah Hex stories, there would be no Merkabah Rider. It was a shining moment for me. The man is a class act, and I hope we have a chance to connect again further down the road.

No pics, I realized.  Yeah, I don’t tend to take pictures of people unless we’re close. Definitely not total strangers. I don’t know if the subjects find it intrusive, but I know I feel pretty dang intrusive sticking a camera in somebody’s face, or asking them to stand beside me and pose for one.

My buddy Bill Duke. Don't ask him about me. He'll deny it...yeah, that's right.

Now I have done this, but when I look at those pics (this one of me and Bill Duke comes to mind), I feel sort of silly. Here’s shlubby ass me and badass Bill Duke.  I’m lowering the property value. Just feels kind’ve artificial to me. I guess it’s proof you met the person, but….oh I dunno. I mean, we’re not buddies, and if you want proof I met Joe Lansdale, I’ve got my copy of Dead In The West. And if you don’t believe me….screw you, cowboy.

So then I had my reading, which, as I mentioned you could hear the wind blow at. C’est la vie. Like a one two punch comes the mass autograph session, which was pretty much dominated by the bigger names. Looking back on it now, I see I was prepared for a different experience. The point of WHC was not to sell books, but to make a splash, do a little politicking, get your name out there. Nobody understood this more in my line of sight than Lincoln Crisler. Watching the guy in action is like watching a dynamo. He’s everybody’s buddy, and he’s somehow everywhere. I have a newfound respect for the guy’s ambition. Combine it with his talent and I expect to see him at the podium during the Stokers in the next couple years.

I had another chance at the DB books party celebrating the release of Corrupts Absolutely? Lincoln (dang him) talked me into reading from my story Conviction to a crowded room full of strangers. Now if you’ve picked that one up yet, or read about it here on the blog, you know that one’s a bit of a departure from my usual work. It’s told from the point of view of an abused African American kid in the Cabrini Green housing projects. So picture me (don’t bother, look up at that shlubby pic of me next to Bill Duke) and imagine me (after a couple quickly downed beers) reading (in part):

“Know what I’m sayin? This is how we do, folk. All day every day, nigga. Right-right. LK Killa! ‘Ay nigga! Who this ‘lil nigga? Who you steppin’ to, nigga? What set? What set? Man chill BillDawg, s’that trick nigga Punkinhead. Whatchoo lookin’ at, Punkinhead? Ugly ass bitch! God-damn you ugly! Go on in nigga, get yo grammaw’s diapers.”

I was a little reluctant at first, but screw it. I’m not ashamed of anything I write, certainly not Conviction, which is a good little story, I think. If somebody can’t separate the character from the writer, it’s there problem not mine. I have no regrets, and I thank Lincoln for nudging me into it with drill instructor aplomb (‘Just read the freakin’ thing!’). No real idea how it went over as I was reading from a laptop screen and couldn’t really look up, but I know the party quieted down till I was done and the only guy that came up to me besides Tim was a guy who suggested I turn Conviction into a theater piece, so I guess it went over OK. Nobody jabbed me with a broken bottle, anyway.

Although the night was young, I am not. I had a 1.5 mile walk back to the Motel 6, so I undertook it.

Now during the day, and I know a lot of the other con-goers will bear this out, it was wall to wall khakis and short sleeve shirts as the LDS people had the run of the place. But night time in SLC is a bit different. The homogenous scene of the daytime totally disappears around 2AM when the clubs let out. There is a sweet street machine subculture that roams the streets at night, peeling their tires and thumping bass, the souped up engines roaring like dragons in the dark. Cars both vintage and sleekly modern.

SLC has a button down reputation, but the liquor flows freely at the clubs, and the raucous crowds attest to it. I saw a couple fights on the walk home, and the splash of police mars lights on the concrete, and sidestepped an 80 proof puddle of vomit at least once.  Nothing too harsh was going on I don’t think, but don’t be fooled into thinking that SLC is a square town, because it’s not. All that homogeny disappears (at least at 2AM anyway). All the minorities you don’t see in the downtown area during the day are in full effect at night, and I’m not just talking about ethnicity. There is a thriving gay community as well, apparently, full in the shadow of the Mormom Temple’s illustrious spires.

More on that later though (the spires not the gay community, sorry).

Saturday morning I had pitch sessions with a couple publishers, one seemed encouraging, the other not so much. OK.

Then I was fifth wheel on the Vampires in Literature panel with Hal Bodner moderating Leslie S. Klinger, James Dorr, and Thomas Roche (two of them voting members on the HWA’s Most Influential Vampire Novel of the Last 100 Years committee). God bless Hal for remembering to ask me things when the panel already had such a worthy crew of knowledgeable persons. I did my best to hang in there and contribute, but even found myself asking questions.

After that I was feeling a bit self-piteous. I had tried my hand Friday night at the Gross Out Contest (where contestants read the most disgusting piece of prose they can come up with), and even though I realized my story Wrath of Benjo from Dark Moon Books’ Slices of Flesh was way outclassed (if you can really call it ‘classed’), but I had signed my name, so I went up and read anyways – besides, Joe Lansdale was one of the judges, and it was a chance to read my own stuff in front of the guy. I got sandwiched between John Skipp (who, at the audiences’ cajoling, spouted off an entirely extemporaneous bit about dog molestation) and Jason Reinhardt, who elucidated us on the finer points of necrophilic incest (just a boy in love with his mom).  Yeah the judge forgot to even call my name at the end. Haha. Lincoln was there too, and placed fourth.

So I hoofed it back to the Motel and worked for a few hours on a pulp novella I’m doing for Airship 27, which I’ll announce when I get the dang thing done and in. I lost track of time actually in the court of Haroun al-Rashid (that’s a hint, true believers), and headed back to the Radisson in time to catch the last half hour of the Stoker Awards. A lot of deserving people walked away with those beautiful little castles, and Rick Haulata seemed to speak directly to me when he said that the most important thing to do was to just keep showing up (he also said the difference between a writer and a pizza is a pizza can feed a family of four). I got to hear Alan Moore’s rambling backhanded acceptance speech for best horror comic, which was better written than most books I’ve read lately. Also got to see Richard Matheson accept the Best Vampire Novel of The Century award for I Am Legend via video. Pretty amazing.

Now at the after party my experience at WHC really got into the swing for me. A little late, sure, but that was my fault. I was hanging around, watching Rick and Joe talk, waiting for an opening to just go in and shake Rick’s hand and thank him for the inspiring words, when a pair of ladies came up to me and told me frankly I looked like a wallflower. Well, I had been one pretty much all weekend after all, so they were calling it plain. The two ladies were none other than Jeff Strand’s wife Lynne Hansen and Alice Henderson (a fellow Star Wars contributor it turns out, who had a similar experience in writing for the franchise), who were good enough to draw me out and get me talking about writing, HWA, and my experiences thus far. I really can’t thank these two enough. Had I turned around and walked out prior to their talking with me, I likely would’ve gone home feeling I hadn’t made much stride at the con. But, they introduced me to people, who introduced me to people and so forth. I didn’t wind up going home till about 4AM, at which time I discovered Salt Lake City has an awesome 24 hour Mexican place called Alberto’s that serves a mean machaca burrito and adobada tacos (I had never heard of them either, but if you like guacamole, you’ll like these).

Sunday morning I walked out of the Motel 6 in a t-shirt right into a Chicago-style ice storm. So, I walked back in, wrote a little more, got dressed, and checked out (which is why I didn’t get to attend the HWA business meeting – sorry, guys). Had lunch at the La Trang, the best dang Vietnamese restaurant I’ve ever eaten at, and hung around the Radisson, even sold a couple books. I had a great talk with Weston Ochse about this colorful thong-wearing bookstore owner in Quartzsite, Arizona, and our various relations in the military.  Even had words with William F. Nolan about our mutual admiration for his friend Richard Matheson’s Incredible Shrinking Man (my favorite Matheson book) and The Beardless Warriors.

Now here’s where things get really interesting (or not, depends on your point of view).

Lincoln, Tim, and Laura Hickman and I headed over to BJ’s (er JB’s) for lunch and I decided to take a walk over to the nearby Mormon Temple to take a couple pics while they ate (since I had a bellyful of Vietnamese yet).

Now everybody has their preconceived notions about the Mormons (well everybody who is not a Mormon anyway). Stepping into the Temple Square area on this, one of the biggest Sundays of the year for them, was like stepping back into the past. Throngs, I mean throngs of people were crowding the area, so much so that SLC police had deployed in vans to direct both foot and vehicular traffic. Wading into the midst of this is like getting caught up in a river. You can’t really go against the tide, you just sort of float along.

Dotted along the thoroughfare were anti-LDS protesters. I strained to listen to what their bullhorn beefs were about, but let’s be honest, who can understand the tinny stuff coming out of those street preachers’ handhelds? Half of them wore placards that were legible but a bit vague, and one guy even had a bunch of apocalyptic stuff pasted to his car.

Now added to this din were lines of people who would seemingly spontaneously burst into chorus. We’re talking Mormon Tabernacle level of singing. Have you ever walked down the sidewalk between two rows of people lifting their voices in praise of God? That swell, that angelic sound of human voices in perfect unison assailing you from both sides – it’s an indescribable sensation. You can just about feel it pressing on your soul.

I wandered from the sidewalk into the temple courtyards and started snapping pics at the edifice. This is one beautiful building after another. The sky besieging spires (toldja I get back to those), the golden angel trumpeting at the top, the vertical architecture (which sorta reminded me of a Stoker, actually, but on an immensely grander scale), the total effect of the fervent believers and the reflecting pools and the monuments and landscaping, it makes the open heart soar, frankly. If God’s not your thing, just revel in the sheer majesty of what the human mind can conceive of and build.

Then, a heavily accented gentleman came up to me and told me he noticed I was taking pictures. I figured it was the LDS security, who had once already asked me to not remain standing in the path of the crowds filing into the huge conference center with its articially recycling waterfall, but no, this guy introduced himself (and I wanna say his name was Hector, and I hope it was) as just a pilgrim come up with his friends from Columbia for the conference. He took my picture a couple times and offered to show me around.

Sure – when would I have a chance to do this again, I figured. So Hector took me around the courtyard, explaining things and answering questions as we went. The Temple is only opened for special ceremonies and weddings. All these people, none of them were here to go inside that commanding structure. He pointed out the old Meeting Hall, and explained that ceremonies and lectures in every language in the world take place there. You see people walking around sometimes with flags on their lapels, flags from different countries. These are people who have taken it upon themselves to help others who come to the Temple from their respective nations. In the Meeting Hall, Spanish speakers, Japanese, even Tongans can gather and hear lectures in their native tongues.

Hector took me into one of the visitor’s centers then. In the middle is a big model of the ancient city of Jerusalem to scale – looks like the map room from Raiders of The Lost Ark.

See if you can spot the Well of Souls.

All along the walls are beautiful paintings and displays depicting scenes and individuals from the bible.  Prophets, Ezekial, Moses, Isaiah (in wax, seated in a mock up of a nomadic Hebrew tent), a staute of Adam and Eve, Daniel interpreting Nebuchadnazzer’s dream.

But at the top, you ascend a winding ramp into this planetarium like domed room painted with stars and nebulae, and in the center is a giant white staute of Christ. Hector explained to me that this represented their belief in Jesus as the center of the universe.

Jesus As The Center of The Universe (me included for scale)

Now I kept waiting for the pitch. You know the pitch. The ‘free personality test’ pitch you get when you walk down Hollywood Blvd. between Ripley’s and The Egyptian Theatre. The pitch the guys in the short sleeved shirts who come to your door on bikes give you, or the guy on campus with the bullhorn, or whichever guy ‘the pitch’ conjures to mind.

Hector showed me a room depicting the charity work the LDS church does worldwide. I asked him if he had always been a Mormon, and he admitted he was the only one in his traditionally Catholic family. Perfect place for the pitch. I think he pointed out the wax figure of Joseph Smith to me. I admitted I was a Catholic to him as well. He said that then I understood, that LDS’ book of Mormon is a book added onto the New Testament. I did already know this. I made no judgment. I’ve never read the Book of Mormon and I think the extent of my education on it comes from that one South Park episode.

However, I am of same opinion of Robert E. Howard’s Conan, who said,

“Crom’s Devils! Let men worship what gods they will!”

I asserted that just as the Book of Mormon is an addition to the New Testament, so too is the New Testament an addition to the Hebrew Torah. Hector smiled to hear this, and clapped my shoulder.

He was nice guy, and when I told him I had to get back to my friends, he made no protest, no last ditch high pressure sales pitch, didn’t plead with me to see more. He advised me, if I ever came back, to visit the other building, which had a miniature model of the Temple with a cross section cut out, showing the interior. He escorted me to the Temple grounds gate and shook my hand.

“You have a generous spirit,” he told me. “I hope I will see you again some time.”

Who knows?

The world is a strange and wonderful place, full of diverse people who can get together on their common struggles with Star Wars and appreciation of the printed word, scary stories, and thong wearing booksellers.

So I came away from World Horror Con 2012 with some new friends, some new hopes, some new knowledge, and the realization that I have nothing in particular against Mormons.

Hasta pronto.

PS – Picked up a copy of Dark Moon Digest #7, featuring the ghost story I wrote with my daughter Magnolia. Here’s her first ‘author pic.’

World Horror Con 2012

Next week I’ll be at the World Horror Convention at the Radisson in Salt Lake City.

http://www.whc2012.org/World_Horror_2012.html

I’ll be hovering all over the place starting Friday morning, likely commiserating with my fellow Damnation Books authors Tim Marquitz (Dawn of War Trilogy) and Lincoln Crisler (WILD, Corrupts Absolutely?). Hope to rub elbows with a couple of authors I’d admire as well. Excited to see Joe R. Lansdale and Robert McCammon will be there.

Specifically though, if you wanna find me, I’ll be reading one of my works at 5:30pm on Friday, March 30th.

I’ll also be at the mass book signing from about 8-10pm pushing copies of Merkabah Rider.

After that, 10PM or so Friday night I’ll be jumping between the Dark Moon Books (the story I wrote with my daughter Magnolia, The Better To See You, appears in Dark Moon Digest #7 and my story The Wrath of Benjo is in their charity anthology Slices of Flesh) and Damnation Books (publishers of Dubaku and The Merkabah Rider series as well as Corrupts Absolutely? the dark metahuman anthology my story Conviction appears in) parties.

Then Saturday at noon I’m on the Vampires Through The Ages panel with Leslie S. Klinger, James Dorr, Hal Bodner, and Thomas Roche.

The rest of Saturday and Sunday I’ll be bopping around all over or taking in the sights of Salt Lake City.

Hasta pronto!

 

On Conviction

It’s a busy busy March. In addition to getting together something special for the epic, penultimate installment of the Merkabah Rider series, tentatively called Once Upon A Time In The Weird West, I’ve got a few projects coming your way.

Out now from Damnation Books, publishers of Merkabah Rider and Dubaku, and editor/author/live action GI Joe Lincoln Crisler, is Corrupts Absolutely? an anthology of dark metahuman fiction exploring the notion of ‘what would happen if the average person had superpowers?’ It’s a great looking anthology with offerings by Cat Rambo, Weston Ochse, Joe McKinney, Tim Marquitz, and bizarrely, a pair of my old high school buddies, the talented Malon Edwards and Wayne Helge among others.

My own story, Conviction, takes place in the old (and mostly demolished now) Cabrini Green Housing Projects of my old abode, Chicago.

It’s origins go all the way back to my roleplaying game days, when a guy named Aaron gave me the title and premise and told me ‘I don’t ever intend to write anything, so take this concept and run with it.’ The premise was, a kid can make anything happen, can alter reality around him, simply with the power of conviction, by convincing himself beyond any doubt that he can affect change. The idea stayed with me for a good twenty or so years, till Lincoln’s anthology came along and gave it a home. So thanks, Aaron, wherever you are.

The second ingredient was Katsuhiro Otomo’s excellent manga Domu, about a senile resident of a Japanese housing project with Akira level mental powers, who uses it to basically steal and collect (and in the process murder the original owners of) various trinkets belonging to unsuspecting members of the community. As a policeman investigates the bizarre associated deaths, a little girl moves in with her family, a girl with the same psionic abilities. Someday, if given the chance, I would love to adapt and film this story with a minority cast set in Cabrini.

The showdown in Katsuhiro Otomo's 'Domu'

Cabrini-Green has been the setting for entertainment before, from Good Times to the horror film Candyman.

Good Times: Where I first thought Janet Jackson was dyn-o-mite.

Cabrini Green, for those that don’t know anything about it, was a massive complex of high rise low income housing situated in South Chicago. You can read about it here –  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabrini_Green

'The Reds' at Cabrini-Green

My own extremely brief experience with Cabrini dates back to around 1995 or ’96. I drove a date up to Chicago, I don’t remember where we were heading, possibly one of the museums, and I made a wrong turn and ended up driving through. I recall my date (she was African American), becoming extremely agitated and hunkering down deep in the passenger seat.

“What’s the matter?” I said.

“”We’re in Cabrini!” she laughed nervously, wiggling further down in her seat.

What I knew about Cabrini Green at that time you could fit on the end of Tinkerbell’s pinky and still have room to paint her nails. I knew only it was ‘a bad place’ full of ‘thugs.’

What it really was was a ghetto. An intitutionalized concentration of low income predominantly African American households whose basic design seemed to be crafted to break up black families. I have no idea as to what it’s origins were, but in researching it for Conviction, I gotta call a pig a pig.  Unable to make ends meet, mothers applied for assistance. The city would pull surprise inspections on assisted families, and if they found the father in residence, they would immediately cut off benefits. This caused fathers to necessarily live in separate apartments from their wives and children, effectively increasing the temptation of drugs, infidelity, and violence, all of which were rampant thanks to the deep infiltration of local street gangs. In its heyday, police treated Cabrini almost like a sovereign nation, refusing to pursue criminals inside or respond to calls for distress from its terrorized residents without significant paramilitary force. They sealed it off at New Years because the gangsters basically ran the show, waltzing down the street firing Tec-9’s and MAC-10’s into the air.

The situation of the buildings created a killzone in the center courtyard. Gangsters fired from hundreds of possible elevated positions. They burrowed holes in the adjoining apartments on various floors so that if police attempted raids, perpetrators could easily escape to stairwells or elevators.

If I remember right, Virginia Madsen made her way through one of the so-called (by police) 'ratholes' inbetween apartments in Cabrini.

In the name of preventing suicides and violence (protecting the residents supposedly), iron cages were erected over the open walkways, reinforcing its penetentiary look.

Nah the bars are for your protection, not ours.

So, in picking a setting for Conviction, I picked Cabrini, because if ever there was a place that inspired hopelessness in a youth, it was that place.

The main character of Conviction is Abassi, a picked upon kid raised by an unsympathetic grandmother, who witnessed the debasement and murder of his own drug addicted older sister at the hands of a cadre of local Gangster Disciples, and was beaten near to death for it.

Miss Orozco, a social worker at his school, tells him something he’s never heard before; that he matters, that he if he can but visualize something better, he can make it happen. She brings hope to a kid without hope, and that little push puts him on a road to improvement.  She teaches him a word he’s never heard before – conviction.

Then, in the weird and wonderful way superhero fiction creates metahumans out of improbable events (Peter Parker and his irradiated spider, The Flash and his lightning bolt and shelf of chemicals), an event occurs which once married to this new conviction, grants Abassi incredible powers.

But without any guidance or positive reinforcement to temper them, what does a child without hope do with them?

That’s Conviction…

And here’s an excerpt –

I wait in the Killing Field between the reds and the whites, where the crackheads go and the po-pos won’t ‘cause they get shot at from the windows. Them windows is like hundreds of eyes, and the red and white buildings be like giants looking down on you. I wait by the wet mattresses and the busted stones and the bottles and the pipes and the crinklin’ chip bags and the yellow grass that ain’t never been green.

I stare at the ground while I wait. It’s wet from the rain. Rain s’posed to make things grow. They ain’t no reason it shouldn’t be green. They ain’t no reason they can’t be flowers.

Yes they is. The poison. The poison in the dirt from the blood and the rock and the puke and the dog shit and the people shit and the glass, which is the only green they is.

I think about the grass bein’ green. I breathe.

From where I sit, it turns green, like it always should’ve been. The green spreads out across the whole lot. The grass drinks up the rain and spits out the poison into the street where it belong. It grows up my ankles, so thick you can’t see the glass and the garbage no more. There are pink and yellow flowers like the ones in my picture.

I get up. I know what I can do now.

Pick up a copy of Corrupts Absolutely? from the publisher http://damnationbooks.com

or right here in print and Kindle from Amazon –  http://www.amazon.com/Corrupts-Absolutely-Metahuman-Fiction-ebook/dp/B007GE8RLC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1331238309&sr=8-1

ConDor, The Surprise, El Terminator, and The Holy Field: San Diego 2012

Back from a sojourn in San Diego pushing Merkabah Rider and talking immortality at ConDor XIX.

The Con was not the greatest match for MR, sorry to say…mainly science fiction focused. I only had about 45 minutes to sell books, so no bills will be paid this go ’round. Thanks to those who showed up at my reading, though.

HMS Surprise: Figurehead

In between reading and my panel, the inimitable Jeff Carter and my son Auggie’s godfather Elliott and I took a jaunt to San Diego’s Maritime Museum, located on the harbor. For years I have been trying to set foot on the deck of the HMS Surprise, Jack Aubrey’s warship from the Peter Weir/Russel Crowe movie Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World.

Lucky Jack's Great Cabin

I’ve always loved the movie. It got me quickly hooked on the excellent Patrick O’Brian novels featuring Lucky Jack and his sometime spy sometime naturalist all the time surgeon Stephen Maturin. I’ve tried to get to the museum during Comic Con but have always failed, last year, because I received a call from my wife that she was in labor with my son.

Anyhow, this time I made it. I love history of all sorts, and while I’m not overly familiar with the Age of Sail, it’s a time period that’s always interested me, and that I’d like to return to in my writing sometime after Merkabah Rider reaches its conclusion. The tween deck I believe must have been lowered from its original position because the cannons (all bearing colorful names like Inferno, one of them after a famous female dancer, Nancy Dawson) were on sort of raised steps, yet still looked comfortably out through the gun ports. Grabbing the double wheel of the Surprise and standing on her quarterdeck was an indescribable feeling. You get the sense that (and I believe this anyway) Aubrey and Maturin really did exist somewhere in some time. Maybe not in this world, but in some other.

At the wheel

As Melville said of the cannibal harpooneer Quequeg’s island birthplace in that other maritime favorite of mine, ‘It is not down on any map; true places never are.’

Never mind the manuvers....just go straight at 'em.

In the belly of the beast

In the belly of the beast

We also got down and squeezed our way through the Russian B-39 diesel submarine they have birthed behind The Surprise (interesting to see the two vessels side by side, like some weird encounter from the writers of The Final Countdown or something). When I was in Cub Scouts in Chicago we had a father son outing, spending the night on board the submarine USS Silversides. I remember it being cramped and hot. The B-39 was even more cramped (so much that I got a brief flash of my claustrophobia about midway through the walk), but strangely cool the farther down ladder you went. I don't even know what I'm looking at....but it's pretty dern complicated.

It was interesting to see the English labelmaker stips pasted on the dive plane controls. Reminded me of when the Enterprise crew had to relabel all the Klingon Bird of Prey consoles in Star Trek IV.

Aft torpedo section - this way to the egress, comrade.

Aft torpedo section - 'This way to the egress, comrade.

After that we got on board the Star of India.

Star of India's main cabins

First commissioned as The Euterpe, after the Greek muse of music and poetry, she was built with and iron hull in 1863, kind of an experimental vessel for its time. After a long history that included hauling cargo and emmigrants, she was recommissioned as The Star of India and continues to sail around the globe with a volunteer crew every year. After the relative smallness and simplicty of The Surprise (which dwarfed a replica of Columbus’ Nina which I went aboard in Chicago maybe fifteen or sixteen years ago), Star Of India seems like a luxury liner. The cabin is laid out with beautiful woodwork (a small four poster bed in the Captain’s digs!), and though the accomodations are small, they’re permanent, as opposed to the hammocks and removable bulkheads of a British naval vessel.

After seeing the ships it was back to ConDor where I moderated a discussion of the pros and cons of immortality (though the cons came up the most) in speculative fiction (no real immortals stepped up to particpate, so we confined the talk to speculative fiction) with a bright group of writers and RPG designers including Kevin Gerard, William Stoddard and Elwin Cotman (the jelly fishes are Turritopsis nutricula, Elwin. No wonder you couldn’t remember the name.). The discussion was lively and illuminating. My personal feeling remains that if immortality were to come calling, I wouldn’t kick it out of bed. I’ve got plenty of hobbies. Seriously, if a man’s lifespan were to coincide with the infinity of the universe, then how much would there be to see and learn? Maybe I watch too much Doctor Who.

Ven conmigo, quieres vivir.

Following the close of the con, we went to San Diego’s Old Town, which I’d always thought was the same as the Gas Lamp District, but is more like Los Angeles’ Olvers Street (though larger and a little less authentic). Lots of old Spanish haciendas converted into Anglo-friendly Mexican restaurants with too tangy salsa. We were greeted outside Miguel’s Cantina by a pretty embarrassingly stereotypical animatronic Mexican in a sombrero and serape who chided us in a sleepy Cheech Marin-type accent to come in for some burritos. The Mexican terminator jokes and the cervezas did flow.

After dinner we headed down the street to a little walled in graveyard with white crosses and plank tombstones Jeff had spied from the window of the Star Destroyer.

The dirt plot with a few twisted old trees, surrounded by a low stone wall and situated between an out of commission Thai Restaurant and some other business, is El Campo Santo (The Holy Field) Cemetary, a graveyard dating back to the 1840’s that was apparently partly paved over by the march of progress. The little graves scattered throughout the graveyard (which I have to admit upon reflection, was weirdly quiet considering it was surrounded by bars and eateries on a Saturday night) are marked with facsimilies of old period newspaper clippings and historical notes.

Who dug the gravedigger's grave?

Apparently the graveyard was also used as an execution ground, and a good deal of Native American insurrectionists who had rebeled against being taxed without representation were hung and buried there. There was the grave of a gentleman who had commandeered a rowboat with intent to hijack a berthed sloop in the harbor and wound up getting executed for horse thievery on some weird 19th century technicality. Leaning against one of the white crosses was a shovel. This grave marked the repose of an Indian man who had apparently attacked his wife with a knife, and upon confessing it to the local priest was sentenced to be El Campo Santo’s gravedigger from then on.

There was a fascinating newspaper article describing the funeral of the infant daughter of a local Spaniard. The little body was not enclosed in a coffin for the funeral procession, but borne on an open bier to the cemetary, led by the priest and an altar boy holding the cross, flanked by six little girls in white dresses, with a Mexican boy lighting firecrackers bringing up the rear.

On a billboard inside the little cemetary was a huge partial list of the interred, whose bodies now resided beneath the freeways and streets, houses and businesses surrounding. Included was a little blurb on the discovery of ten mass graves for which no account could be found or determined.

“Zombies,” I said.

“Probably from some battle,” said Jeff.

Writers….

So it's every hand to his rope or gun, quick's the word and sharp's the action. After all... 'Surprise' is on our side.

Merkabah Rider 3: Have Glyphs Will Travel Notes

Before I jump into this post, Chag Urim Sameach/Happy Hanukkah.

My gift to you is, first three readers to send an email to emerdelac (AT) gmail.com get a free e-copy of Merkabah Rider 3: Have Glyphs Will Travel in .epub, .mobi, or .pdf.  Just state which you prefer. I’ll post on here when I get enough responses. (GIVEAWAY’S OVER, FOLKS. Thanks for looking – hope it was a happy holiday.)

Now on with the rest of the shew….

I like reading the thought processes and inspirations behind stuff I read by other authors. Joe R. Lansdale did this for his High Cotton collection, prefacing each story with a short bit about how it came to be. When I wrote for Star Wars I did something like this on the official blog, a sort of key to the easter eggs and references I put in the story for fans, something guys like Dan Wallace and Jason Fry still do on there.

Anyway, I’ve done one for each of the Merkabah Rider books, and it being Hankukah, felt like time to sit down and whip up one for the latest installment, Have Glyphs Will Travel, which came out at the beginning of December.

These might be partly spoiler-ific, so if you haven’t read the book yet, you might hold off and come back later.

Still here?

OK.

In Episode 9, The Long Sabbath –

Really not too much homaging in this one. The critters the turncoat riders put in the hapless adjutant and his scout are meant to be Mythos spawned of course, but they’re my own creation, sprung from me reading about the phenomenon of kamikaze ants and their last ditch method of defending their colony from invaders.

Exploding ant traps an enemy worker

Cattle stampedes are the most harrowing, violent danger I can think of for an old-time cattleman, from what I’ve read and seen. The stampede scenes in Lonesome Dove and Red River have always stuck with me. The only thing I could think of worse than being in one was being immobilized in the middle of one.

There is one extra-Rider allusion. Abe Lillard, the Rider’s best friend from San Francisco, is meant to be the half-Jewish son of Tommy Lillard, a character portrayed by Harrison Ford in a western that was a huge inspiration for The Merkabah Rider series. I would assume Abe was named for Tommy’s best friend.

Avram Belinski (L) and Tommy Lillard (R)

In Episode 10, The War Shaman –

Lots of history easter eggs in this one. It’s actually my favorite of the book as it was clearest in my head from start to finish and includes a cameo by some of the greatest of the Chiricahua Apache warriors, a people whom I have an unadulterated admiration for.

Goyaala is Geronimo of course, and stuttering Juh (pronounced ‘whoa’ if you were wondering), Vittorio and the warrior woman Lozen are all real individuals. Lozen’s purported seeing Power and the chant she uses to activate it was documented as well. As a matter of fact, all the named Apache are taken from historical record, even the outlaw Bedonkohe, Inya.

Faustus’ extra-dimensional origins have been delved into by me in an earlier post here….https://emerdelac.wordpress.com/2010/12/23/merkabah-rider-author-notes/

Of the various stories he mentions as being real, of course the whaler with the Indian figurehead is the Pequod of Moby Dick, the boy with the sword from the stone is intended to be Arthur, and the thirteen heroes with two hearts between them, well, you don’t need a ‘doctorate’ to know ‘who’ that is.

Thirteen heroes (eleven pictured) with two hearts between them.

The company of cavalry Faustus, the Rider, Belden and Kabede meet on the road are commanded by Adna Chaffee, who was an actual Civil War veteran and later became a General, seeing action in the Chinese Boxer Rebellion and the Phillipine Insurrection.

Tom Horn

Riding along with him is the famous German scout Al Seiber, who was General George Crook’s chief civilian scout during the Geronimo campaign. Tom, the boy accompanying him, is Tom Horn, the infamous range detective later hung for murder in Cheyenne,Wyoming (perhaps unjustly) and portrayed by Steve McQueen in the titular movie. Togo-de-chuz and his ‘kid’, the Apache scouts Seiber mentions as his preferred companions, were real Apache scouts, the ‘kid’ being Has-kay-bay-nay-ntayl, later known as ‘The Apache Kid.’

The Apache Kid was an interesting character who was a longtime friend (and very nearly a surrogate son) of Seiber. When a drunken scout killed his father, the Kid retaliated and became an outlaw.  He surrendered to the Army and was sentenced to a year in Alcatraz and later Yuma Territorial Prison, the latter of which he is one of the only known escapees from. He and three others overpowered some guards and fled into a snowstorm, never to be seen again. One of his pursuers was future author Edgar Rice Burroughs, then a member of the seventh cavalry!

The Apache Kid

Nacozari and the Moctezume Mining Company are both real, but the existence of the Apache stronghold of Pa Gotzin Kay is debatable. It’s tangled up with the story of the Lost Adams Diggings, a legendary gold vein, also the inspiration for MacKenna’s Gold. I’ve moved it from the traditional location of New Mexico.

Oh there’s lots of Lovecraftian stuff in this one as well. Misquamicus of course, also the subject of Graham Masterton’s great Manitou series of novels. I’ve made him a sort of endless being, on par with his brother, and tied him into most of the major Native American doings from the dawn of recorded history and on that I could find, from the early treacheries of Cortes to the Maroon rebellion in Jamaica, where I had read some of the captive Indians involved in the burning of Providence, Rhode Island had been shipped off as slaves, and I imagined Misquamacus would have found work to his liking. The Sand Creek Massacre was one of the worst acts of genocide enacted by the United States against the native populace. It was actually the basis for the original weird western stories I wrote in high school, some of which evolved into Merkabah Rider.

A deformed Misquamacus in the future, from 'The Manitou'

Misquamacus’ dealings with the Billington clan of New England are documented in Lovecraft’s The Lurker At The Threshold, where his devotion to Nyarlathotep and conjuring of Ossodagowah are both mentioned.

 The supernatural aspects of the bad guys who side with Misquamacus are mostly my own invention of course, though the Pawnee did at one time practice a somewhat infamous human sacrifice ritual, and the Tonkawas did believe they were descended from wolves. Any misrepresentations are of course my own fault, but I make no apologies portraying skinwalkers in a negative light.  I don’t think any Navajo would take issue with it.

 The Rider’s likening his claustrophobia to the various mental afflictions of an old friend from his yeshiva in San Francisco named Aloysius Monkowitz is a shameless (or perhaps shameful) allusion to a probable ancestor of a certain neurotic modern day San Francisco detective with a similar name of whom I’m a fan.

Aloysius Monkowitz's famous descendant.

In Episode 11, The Mules of The Mazzikim

This is another one short on easter eggs, but there are a couple.

The scalp the Kwtsan Indian tries to sell the Rider on the bridge going into Yuma is the scalp of Joe (John Joel) Glanton, the leader of the band of vicious scalphunters hired by the Mexican government to collect bounties on Apache Indian scalps in the 1840’s and vividly portrayed in one my favorite novels, Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian or, An Evening’s Redness In The West. Glanton and his gang took over the ferry over the Gila River at Yuma and regularly robbed and extorted crossers. They were later slaughtered by the Kwtsans on that spot.

The Rabbi Belinski the Rider mentions as having overseen his bar mitzvah was the aforementioned Tommy Lillard’s best friend, a rabbi who once undertook an amazing journey across the west to deliver a Torah scroll to San Francisco.

The lawman, Marshal Books, who arrests the Rider is the same ailing Books (or perhaps the brother of) who years later has it out on his birthday in an El Paso(or perhaps Carson City) saloon with several of his nemeses.

Happy birthday, Books

In Episode 12, The Man Called Other

Every aspect of Yuma Prison I could realistically portray I did, from the color of the cots to the processing of prisoners, to the rings in the floor and The Dark Cell. I visited what’s left of the place last year and the museum that sits on the site. Judge Berry was real, and the warden of the time was the real guy, Captain C.V. Meder (though not the acting warden, obviously).

In Episode Thirteen, The Fire King Triumphant

The title of The Fire King Triumphant is paraphrased from the headline of the Tombstone Epitaph (‘The Fire King Reaps A Harvest’) about the May 1882 fire that actually swept through the town of Tombstone. It really did start in the outhouse behind Tivoli’s as depicted. If you get yourself a street map from the time, I’ve done my best to keep the layout of the story true to the town.

W.W. Spates appeared in the last book, and I talked about the inspiration for him. His colleague, the linguistic expert Warren Rice is intended to be a younger version of the silver haired linguist who accompanied Harry Armitage in The Dunwich Horror.

 China Mary, the shrewd entrepreneur with ties to the Chinese Benevolence Society (or tong) in Tombstone, was a real lady, as was her Can Can Chop House. The word her man uses to describe the amorphous beasties in Lepsy’s barrels is hundun, which does mean dumpling, or wonton, but also refers to a legendary faceless, formless beast from Chinese folklore. The hundun is primordial chaos, a lump of flesh or thunder egg from which creatures of reality are born, or a featureless creature lacking the seven openings which mark humanity.

hundun

The villain of this story Lepsy himself is a reference to a ghost story from Dudleyville or Pinal, Arizona. Lepsy supposedly did hire Chinese workers and burn them as remuneration. When a sheriff and his posse went after them, Lepsy did the same for him. In the canyon where these crimes supposedly occurred, you can see scorch marks and smell burnt flesh.

Camillus Sydney and Mollie Fly did own the photography studio in Tombstone at 312 Fremont Street. On October 26 1881 the Gunfight at the OK Corral took place in the alley between his boarding house out back and the next house over, and it was inside his place that Ike Clanton and Sheriff Johnny Behan took cover.

Fly and Mollie both took photographs in their studio and abroad, Mollie being one of the most prominent female photographers of her time. Fly took the famous photos of the Billy Clanton and the McClaurys in their caskets. Fly also accompanied Crook to Canyon de Los Embudos in 1886 and took pictures of Geronimo in the field – the only photographs of Native Americans actively engaged in resisting the US government.

Mollie Fly took this picture of the CS Fly studio as it burned for the second time in 1912.

Finally, Moon Fugate and his peculiar pigmentation condition are a reference to the famous Blue Fugates a hill clan from Hazard, Kentucky, born with methemoglobinemia or met-H, a genetic blood disorder which results in blue skin.

The Blue Fugates of Kentucky

That’s about all this time out, kiddies. Whew!

Soon, news about the final chapter in the Merkabah Rider saga. It’ll be something special.

Don’t forget the giveaway.

Happy holidays, whichever holiday it may be, and good new year on you.

-Hasta pronto,

EME