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

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Kaiju Rising!

I’m involved in a brand new project from Ragnarok Publishing, an anthology of 19 giant monster stories called Kaiju Rising. Participating authors include Larry Correia, Peter Clines, Peter Rawlik, James Lovegrove, Erin Hoffman, James Maxey, David Annandale, Clint Lee Werner, Jonathan Wood, J.C. Koch, Paul Genesse, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Samuel Sattin, Jaym Gates, Timothy W. Long, Mike MacLean, Natania Barron, and Joshua Reynolds.

photo-mainCheck out the kickstarter –
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1089607742/kaiju-rising-age-of-monsters-anthology/posts

As of this writing we’re a featured kickstarter, about 70% funded and have twenty five days to go. Not bad.

http://sf-fantasy.suvudu.com/2013/09/featured-kickstarter-kaiju-rising.html

My own story, DEVIL’S CAP BRAWL, is a weird western/daikaiju/kyodai hero mashup, drawing on inspiration from wuxia, Godzilla flicks, and Kung Fu among other things.

When an Indian warns the Irish boss of a Central Pacific Railroad gang not to dynamite through a towering rock known as Devil’s Cap, the boss goes ahead and does it anyway, unleashing Dzoavits, a massive ogre-like creature which proceeds to smash the camp flat and endanger the entire crew. But among the hapless Chinese rail workers, a single man, a monk, doesn’t flee the beast’s shadow. He sits down and closes his eyes. And then he begins to grow….

Here’s an excerpt from DEVIL’S CAP BRAWL. Swing by the kickstarter and kick a buck. Kick two and help Ragnarok meets its stretch goals, which include some amazing interior illustrations from monster illustrator Robert Elrod, Chuck Lukacs (of Wizards of The Coast fame), and just maybe, a positively legendary fantasy artist…

Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History MuseumJoe cussed and trudged up the incline. He heard a crash behind him and all of a sudden the Chinese priest was climbing alongside him.

Halfway up the top, the ground shook hard and rumbled. A pile of loose rocks tumbled free and one struck Joe bloody in the head. The priest grabbed his shirt and kept him from falling. For nearly a full minute they hugged the rock, watching the trees sway and shed snow down on them. It was like gripping a bull trying to shake them loose.

“Earthquake!” he managed to yell.

Below, the coolies working the west tunnel ran into the open shouting, dirt and rubble sliding from their shoulders.
Bushy bearded Jesus, he had never felt one this bad. It seemed like it would never end. He glanced up and saw the wood enclosure trembling atop the summit. His heart sank when he heard a crack and saw part of the roof shift. The Paiutes spilled out and fell to their bellies just as the roof collapsed inward, the whole structure crashing flat over the engine and the tender. Debris slid down the embankment, carrying a couple screaming Paiutes with it.
Joe put his head down and quietly willed the engine not to fall from the mountain. Christ’s bloody breechclout, they would be here another year if they lost it. What would he tell Crocker? He had talked big to the priest about being footloose and fancy free. Damn if it didn’t look like he really would be. Sure, he’d get the blame, even for an earthquake. And Crocker would put some other mick in his place. It’d be back to Fisherman’s Wharf for him, bareknuckle fighting, spittin’ teeth and pissin’ blood and whiskey till a good job came his way again, if it ever did.

He looked over at the priest but he was gone. Fallen or carried off by a boulder or bit of rubble, no doubt. But no, Joe saw him above then, springing nimble as a goat from rock to rock, even in the midst of the shaking, making his way up to the summit.

Joe held on for dear life, and watched as the priest reached Tolliver where the Paiute had laid him when the shaking had started. He lifted the bloody man up in his arms and hurled himself over the edge like a madman. But instead of tumbling to his death, he skipped lightly till he reached the bottom of the hill, and then knelt there over Tolliver, shielding him from falling rocks with his own body.

No priest Joe had ever seen was like that.

The shaking stopped, and he looked up at the pile of wood and snow that had once covered the engine, and saw Old Judah’s smokestack poking through.

“Well thank Missus Lot’s salt tits for that!” he exclaimed.
Just then something burst from the side of the rock to his immediate left. It looked like a huge, mossy mass of tendril roots.

Joe was so surprised he relaxed his grip on the stone and fell backwards.

Well, that’s the end of me, he thought, as he plummeted into the open air. He supposed he would land on that rock he had been standing on before, and be broken in two. If he was lucky, he might squash a Chinaman and be saved.
But neither happened.

Instead, he felt a dull impact on his upper back and behind his knees, and found himself sagging in the surprisingly hard, strong arms of the priest like a suckling baby.

He looked at the priest in surprise, and noticed the inside of his forearms were tattooed….no, not tattooed. There were designs branded on his skin, puffy scars in the shape of a fanciful Oriental dragon on his right arm, and a tiger on his left.

He put down his feet.

“Ta, boyo,” Joe muttered.

But the priest wasn’t looking at him. No one was. The coolies and the Indians were uniformly staring wide eyed up at the top of Devil’s Cap.

The mass of tangled roots that had surprised Joe were moving, waggling like great knotty, long nailed fingers.
Because that’s what they were.

He didn’t want to believe it, but when the splayed things shot further out causing the rock to crack and crumble, they were on the end of an immensely long, muscular arm, shaggy with string grey hair stained brown by the dirt.

mountaineruptThe top of Devil’s Cap moved. It rose and fell once, like something beneath were testing the weight, then it swelled again, enough to tip Old Judah and its tender off the slope at last. The noise of all that iron and steel rolling down was a terrible cacophony, and a few men were caught up in it and smashed flat.

Something burst through the snowy cap….

My urban horror novella Gully Gods gets a nice mention at SFFWorld Review’s 2012 Retrospective

A while back I put out a dark gangsta horror novella called Gully Gods in a collection called FOUR IN THE MORNING along with fellow authors Tim Marquitz, Lincoln Crisler, and Malon Edwards.

It’s about a young gangbanger named J-Hoss who flees South Houston to lay low with his aunt in Chicago and gets mixed up with an ambitious and violent clique of Liberian ex-child soldiers led by a sadistic murderer called Kid Hitler, who draws strange powers from a dark and terrible deity.

You can read more about it, and an excerpt – here.

Anyway over at SFFWorld, reviewer Nila White wrote a nice mention of FOUR IN THE MORNING, including a well deserved mention of my friend Malon Edward’s FAN-tastic steampunk novella Half-Dark.

http://www.sffworld.com/mul/334p0.html

The bit about me (of which I’m quite proud) reads –

“The second story offered is Gully Gods by Edward M. Erdelac, an urban fantasy that was bone-chilling scary to me, but touched on so many modern issues that this might end up being taught in literature classes some day.”

Thanks to Nila (N.E.) White over at SFFWorld Reviews.

FOUR IN THE MORNING is still available on Amazon, and 100% of any proceeds I get I donate to one of the various charities listed in the book, so check it out (and these worthy causes) –

http://childsoldiersinitiative.org

http://childsoldierrelief.org

http://www.warchild.org

The United States has its own child soldier dilemma, and it doesn’t gain much sympathy from the public. There are a few organizations out there that work with lower income communities and troubled youth in danger of becoming victims of the pervading gang culture. An internet search will turn up any number in your own area. All of them are in dire need of support.

http://homeboy-industries.org

(LA-based organization that exclusively trains and employs ex-gang members and at-risk youth. ‘Nothing stops a bullet like a job.’ Homeboy is currently on the rocks and could definitely use some help.)

http://www.catholiccharitiesusa.org

http://www.resurrectionproject.org

(works to improve the historic Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago with affordable housing, childcare, and community outreach programs)

The Next Big Thing

Author Weston Ochse (whose supernatural military thriller Seal Team 666, already optioned for a movie, is due to hit the stands running next month) tagged me in something called The Next Big Thing, in which authors answer questions about their forthcoming works and then tag five other writers they’d like you to know about.

So here are my answers.

1) What is the working title of your next book?

Terovolas.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

In 1997 I came across a collection of papers in a sealed box on a shelf in the basement of the University of Chicago’s Regenstein Library. I call the documents The Van Helsing Papers. They were a series of primary source accounts, including the personal journal of the actual Professor Abraham Van Helsing, translated from Dutch by Dr. John Seward. I chose to collect the events of 1891 immediately following those depicted in Bram Stoker’s Dracula as Terovolas.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Though a nonfictional account, it’s being presented as fiction, in which case I guess you’d call it a weird western horror/mystery.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I think Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula infected me with the notion that Anthony Hopkins is the perfect Abraham Van Helsing. Alexander Skarsgard might make a good Sigmund Skoll. I could see Michael Shannon as Coleman Morris, Robert Duvall as Aurelius Firebaugh, Carrie Ann Moss as Callisto Terovolas, and Sam Rockwell as Alvin Crooker.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Recently released from Purfleet Asylum after suffering a nervous breakdown stemming from the events of Dracula, Professor Abraham Van Helsing bears the remains of Quincey Morris back to Texas and winds up tangling once more with the supernatural, doubting his own sanity in the process.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Terovolas is being put out by JournalStone Publishing.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I compiled it in about three or four months.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Eaters Of The Dead by Michael Chrichton, Nicholas Meyers’ The Seven Percent Solution, The Memoirs Of Wild Bill Hickock by Richard Matheson, and of course Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
When I learned the truth about Van Helsing, I wanted to present this information to the world. I think in a lot of media, Van Helsing is portrayed as something of a fanatic. My research has led me to believe that nothing could be further from the truth. He’s no more a fanatic than he is exclusively a vampire hunter. The real Van Helsing was a man who walked the line between science and faith, reasoning and superstition, really the best of both worlds. He had an amazing career of which the account of Dracula for which he is most remembered, is only a small part. In popular modern fiction he’s most often depicted in a negative light, whereas Dracula has conversely been lionized. This is a travesty that I felt needed rectifying.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

It’s the first of a series of true accounts of the further adventures of Abraham Van Helsing, beginning with a sojourn in Texas in which he encounters shapechangers, cultists, and outlaws. If you need more than that, I don’t know what to tell you.

So next Wednesday, visit the following writer’s blogs to read about what they’ve got in the works, and why I chose them as The Next Big Thing…

 Jeff Carter

Tim Marquitz

Lincoln Crisler

Ted Grau

Greg Mitchell

Fade To Black: Theophany Of Nyx in Fading Light: An Anthology Of The Monstrous

Today Fading Light: An Anthology Of The Monstrous is out from Angelic Knight Press and editor (and friend) Tim Marquitz, author of the Dawn of War series (and editor on two of my Merkabah Rider books).

The concept behind Fading Light is pretty cool.

(from the back cover)

“The light has failed: the era of man is at its end.

Born of darkness, the creatures of myth, legend, and nightmare have long called the shadows home. Now, with the cruel touch of the sun fading into memory, they’ve returned to claim their rightful place amidst humanity: as its masters.”

The stories are by Mark Lawrence, Gene O’Neill, William Meikle, David Dalglish, Gord Rollo, Nick Cato, Adam Millard, Stephen McQuiggan, Gary W Olson, Tom Olbert, Malon Edwards, Carl Barker, Jake Elliot, Lee Mather, Georgina Kamsika, Dorian Dawes, Timothy Baker, DL Seymour, Wayne Ligon, TSP Sweeney, Stacey Turner, Gef Fox, Henry P Gravelle, & Ryan Lawler.

My own contribution, The Theophany of Nyx, came to me while watching one of the many Nova and National Geographic specials my wife subjects me to on a regular basis on Netflix Instant.

This one was on the formation of the moon, and in particular, the current popular theory that it was formed when a hurtling celestial body called Theia struck the earth about 4.5 billion years ago and blew a chunk of the earth into its own orbit.

It’s a cool little theory. You can read about it here…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant_impact_hypothesis

In my story, which takes place in an unspecified future, Selene, the first lunar colony, is established on the moon with much fanfare. But the greatest achievement of mankind swiftly becomes its greatest tragedy when a crack opens in the moon’s surface and Selene slips inside, causing a billowing cloud of sublunar dust to spread into the earth’s atmosphere, blotting out the sun.

Plants begin to die, and at the Ft. Sill army base in Oklahoma, bored contract plumber Walter Coombs finds himself stuck on lockdown, a captive audience slowly watching the whole thing unfold.

Then one night a rain begins to fall, and the soldiers hold an impromptu football game to celebrate what they assume will break up the impenetrable cloud.

Don’t go out in the rain.

But the rain carries something exiled to the moon in the prehistoric cosmic wars that once raged across the surface of the fledgling earth. Something that is returning to reclaim its ancentral home…

So borrowing heavily from Nova, Dr. Reginald Aldworth Daly, and the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, comes The Theophany of Nyx.

Pick up a copy of Fading Light and check it out – http://www.amazon.com/Fading-Light-Anthology-Monstrous-ebook/dp/B0094IC60G/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1346459952&sr=8-5&keywords=fading+light+anthology

Hasta pronto!

Lincoln Crisler’s QUEEN in FOUR IN THE MORNING

Lincoln Crisler is the last guy you’d expect to write a middle aged woman fretting over her age lines.

Scratch that. Lincoln Crisler is the last guy you’d expect to write a middle aged woman fretting over her age lines so well.

The guy is active duty military, tattooed, and can just about quiet a room (or I imagine a lineup of guys in OD green – do they still wear that?) with his voice. His clipped, direct speech reminds me of a drilling precision cadence. He’s not a hardass or anything. The guy is quite affable. But he really is the live action GI Joe his website trumpets him as.

But man, he writes the woefully vulnerable, self-deprecating middle aged female psyche really well.

And you know how I can tell? Because I hated Rita (the main character of Lincoln’s Queen in Four in the Morning, the collection my novella Gully Gods appears in, along with works by Tim Marquitz and Malon Edwards) when I met her. But I couldn’t stop reading about her. That’s the mark of a good author and a good story, and Lincoln Crisler and Queen are both.

In Queen, Rita is obsessed with herself and her husband’s opinion of her. She’s a beautiful, mature woman, but she requires constant positive appraisal, and rebuffs it or is nearly oblivious to it when it actually comes her way. The woman can’t seem to just live her own life or fathom that her husband has a life outside of her. This drives every event of the narrative, from her decision to rejuvenate herself via an experimental age reversal treatment conducted by a shady, too-friendly pharmaceutical company, to her husband James’ inevitable conduct and the supremely bizarre conclusion.

The woman is a heavenly body (slowly made all the more heavenly by the helpful Dr. Cavelian) and the people around her are just satellites. It’s fitting really. In a way, she’s already a queen in her own mind when the story starts, albeit not the sort of queen you’d want running your kingdom.

This is a Lincoln Crisler yarn, so things are going to take a weird turn, and they do. But for the eventual strangeness and horror to be believable, you’ve got be grounded in the reality first, and Lincoln does this really well. Although I couldn’t stand Rita, I could follow and empathize with her thought processes, could almost predict her reactions to things around her. I wanted to shake her at times, but I understood her.

The treatment has side effects unforeseen by Rita, but not entirely unintended. And I don’t want to spoil anything, but there is a scene in the kitchen, and you’ll know when you come to it, that is positively stomach turning. And yet, none of it is so strange that it comes out of left field or feels non-diagetic. In fact, although Rita’s fate is somewhat tragic, it’s also sort of…appropriate. Everything comes together, culminating in a fitting end. In a way, Rita becomes the queen she always wanted to be, even if she didn’t know it herself.

In the end, what Lincoln’s created in Queen is a dark meditation on the nature of beauty and self-worth. You’re only as important as the people closest to you think you are. But it’s a reciprocal thing. To be needed, you have to need in return.


And as for beauty, it really only starts to fade when you dwell on it.

Here’s an excerpt –

 Something moved, deep in her belly, accompanied by a brief flash of heat behind her eyes. She eased her head back to her pillow. If the doctor wanted her to avoid unnecessary stress, that meant playing dead until James took his ass to work. She lay still and focused on her breathing while her husband heaved himself out of bed and started his day. The hot flashes and queasiness passed, and after a moment, she didn’t have to fake sleep.

A sharp pain ripped through Rita from crotch to skull, waking her abruptly. She looked over at the clock as she struggled to raise herself up on one elbow. She’d slept until lunchtime. Fire and ice washed over her brain. Her legs felt like rubber as she attempted to stand. She fell to her knees beside the bed and pawed at the nightstand, scattering the clock and a cup of water before laying hands on what she was searching for; her cell phone. It was dead. There was no land line in the house, and she was alone.

The neighbors. The two nearest homes belonged to the Moores and the Clares. The Clares were childless and both worked, but blonde, bright-eyed Susan had retired early a few months back when her daughter started college. If she wasn’t home, her daughter, Jordan, might be. Otherwise, she’d have to cross the street and hope she didn’t get run over. Rita braced herself against the nightstand and rose to her feet. Her guts churned and static filled her head. She could hear voices through the haze, but couldn’t make out any of the words. The lurching in her stomach became rhythmic, and her hips ground painfully. Watery blood flooded from her vagina as she fell to the floor.

Oh God. What did those assholes do to me? She was in worse pain than she’d ever been in before. She crawled to the bathroom on her hands and knees, trailing fluid and mucus. She needed to clean herself up, get some pants on, and get some help. As she left the carpet for the hard, cool tile of the bathroom floor, she felt the first familiar sensation she’d felt all morning.

Birth contractions. Far too soon, but undeniable.

Pick up Four In The Morning on Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0084N3I1I/ref=s9_simh_gw_p351_d1_g351_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-3&pf_rd_r=1Y5SZKSY6CE6P4NQGN45&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=470938811&pf_rd_i=507846

Published in: on July 22, 2012 at 12:48 am  Comments (3)  
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Four In The Morning Free On Amazon Till Friday

Hey all, just a very quick note this time around to let you know Four In The Morning, the dark fiction collection I did with authors Lincoln Crisler (editor on Corrupts Absolutely?) , Tim Marquitz (author of the Dawn of War Trilogy), and Malon Edwards, is available on Amazon (ebook and Kindle) completely free until tomorrow, Friday the 7th.

 My weird gangsta novella of dark powers and cannibalism, Gully Gods, is contained therein. Read all about that (including an excerpt) right (here).

And you can pick it up right here – – http://www.amazon.com/Four-in-the-Morning-ebook/dp/B0084N3I1I/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1339092475&sr=8-2

Or in paperback for $8.99.

Hasta later.

-Ed

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.

Some Words And An Excerpt From Gully Gods

FOUR IN THE MORNING is available now….

http://www.amazon.com/Four-in-the-Morning-ebook/dp/B0084N3I1I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1337667250&sr=8-1

It’s an eclectic collection of four entirely different dark novellas, the brainchild of contributor Lincoln Crisler (editor of CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY?) and also featuring stories by myself, Malon Edwards, and Tim Marquitz.

When Lincoln approached me with the idea for this collection, he suggested we loosely use the theme of ‘age’ as a jumping off point, as in one of us do youth, another middle age, and another the golden years. When Malon came on, he and I decided to split youth into adolescence and young adulthood.

The novella I wrote for this project is called GULLY GODS.

Pilsen

GULLY GODS started way back in 1997 with an entirely different cast of characters but a similar setting, the Lower West Side of Chicago, around the historic Pilsen neighborhood, traditionally a kind of port of entry neighborhood for foreign immigrants to the city, beginning with Czechs in the early nineteenth century and gradually becoming predominately Mexican in the twentieth.I wanted to explore late 90’s street gang culture, sort of in the way Harlan Ellison did back in the 50’s (but without actually joining a gang, obviously), and it occured to me (as almost everything I study does) to infuse it with weird fiction. Actually, the first time I heard the term ‘Urban Horror’ or ‘Urban Fantasy,’ I ran it through my outdated 90’s PC filter, when every thing ‘urban’ meant ‘hip-hop’ related.  So I set out to write this thinking I was writing Urban Horror because the whole time I had an old school hip hop soundtrack going in my mind (and I never ever write to music. But more on that in another post). Then while walking past a booth at San Diego Comic Con last year I came across an Urban Horror publisher and saw the covers were almost entirely populated by white women in black leather pants, emulating the chick from Underworld (who to me, was already a second generation Trinity from The Matrix). Open up another window and do a google search for Urban Fantasy and you’ll see what I mean. A slew of skinny chicks in black t-shirts.

But I digress.

As things sometimes do, the most vivid scene I had written wound up showing up almost to the T in a major motion picture release (the curb job in American History X), so I sort of became disenchanted with the material and the story never really took off in my mind. It sat dormant way back there for a lot of years, but Lincoln brought it back out itching.

I decided to revisit the concept (a group of hardcore gangbangers who pay homage to a dark and very real deity which grants them supernatural powers) from the point of view of Africans/African Americans instead of Puerto Ricans, as was my initial idea.

I think what made it click was my recent research into the child soldiers of Liberia, an absolutely deplorable phenomenon that’s been practiced there and in several other countries for as long as men have aimed guns at one another. My interest in Liberian child soldiers started after I’d streamed the Vice Guide To Travel’s harrowing episode on Liberia, and become acquainted with Joshua Blahyi, AKA General Butt Naked.

Blahyi is a reformed warlord turned Christian minister in Liberia. During the country’s bloody civil war, he devoted himself to a personal deity which required the blood of murdered children as sacrifice and in turn supposedly granted him immunity from bullets if he strode into combat stark naked (which he did).  The majority of his Butt Naked Brigade consisted of armed children, sometimes as young a nine years old, kidnapped from their home villages, beaten, often sexually abused, and strung out on drugs, usually ‘brown brown,’ a mixture of cocaine and gunpowder, which left them in a perpetual state of heightened paranoia and agitation.

Their former identities as sons and brothers were completely wiped away. They traded their real names for ‘battle names’ like Walking-Fucking, Rambo, Khadaffi, and Captain War Boss. They were trained to show no mercy to their enemies, and encouraged to brutalize and rape civilians at their pleasure (we’re talking rape from the time they’re first able to even attempt sex). Following Blahyi’s vision, the boys strutted into combat either nude, or wearing evening gowns, outrageously colored wigs, and handbags, which they believed confused enemy bullets.

I read Uzodinma Iweala’s child soldier novel BEASTS OF NO NATION and several positively chilling first hand accounts from ex-(child) combatants and their victims, a few of which wound up as recollections of the characters in GULLY GODS.

Joshua Milton Blahyi AKA General Butt Naked

GULLY GODS’ ‘hero’ if it has one, is an African American Houston teenager named J-Hoss, who, having been caught up in the South Houston gang culture, witnesses and promptly avenges the death of his best friend at the hands of Mexican rivals, and goes to Chicago to lay low with his aunt and young cousin.

Like Father Flanagan, I’m not of the opinion that there are natural born ‘bad boys.’ There are kids who have gone bad, sure, and J-Hoss is one of them. At an early age his father was incarcerated, and he was fortunate enough to have been partly raised by his grandfather, a hardworking ex-cowboy who instilled him a sense of personal history and a moral code.J’s family comes from the Mascogo.

The Mascogo are African-Mexicans, descended from the Black Seminoles of Florida. The Black Seminoles came about when Africans fled to Spanish territory and mingled with the Seminole Indian tribes there, becoming part of their community. After fighting the United States nearly to a standstill in the everglades during the Seminole Wars, the Black Seminoles were faced with the prospect of slavery and removal to Oklahoma (Indian Territory). A group of them chose instead to head for Mexico, where they established the town of Nacimento with the full blessing of the Mexican government, who prized them as scouts and trusted them to defend the northern borders against American bandits and hostile Apaches (how the world turns, right?).

The leader of this group was called John Horse, and it’s from John Horse that J-Hoss takes his name.

Juan Caballo, or John Horse

After his grandfather’s death in a nursing home, J-Hoss finds himself not always living up to the code he was taught, acting selfishly as teenaged boys do, but in the volatile and hostile world of the gangster, which soon makes him a dangerous individual.Expecting a peaceful sojourn in Chicago, J-Hoss strikes up a relationship with a Mexican girl from the new neighborhood, which soon draws the ire of the local Mexican gang. Pretty soon it’s more of the same, except here, J-Hoss doesn’t have his own gang to back him up, and in addition he’s made a promise to his aunt and her Muslim boyfriend not to endanger their home or the life of his young cousin with any of his criminal dabblings.But when a small but ambitious and up and coming Liberian immigrant gang called the Trip Sixes sides with him against the Mexicans and extends a friendly hand to him, it’s understandably difficult for J-Hoss to say no.

Soon events transpire to send him headlong back into the life he’s forsworn. But the Trip Sixes (led by an intense ex-child soldier who calls himself Hitler) are nothing like any gang J-Hoss has ever known.

They court a terrible, dangerous power, an old power that hungers for bloodshed.

Here’s the first two pages….

All the bad started when the Southside Cholo’s rolled up on me and Bruce Wayne in the Subway parking lot on Aldine Bender Road in Houston.

I’d been bangin’ with the five deuce Hoovers since fifth grade, mostly slangin’ weed and rock to the hypes at Haverstock Hills where I’d stayed in an apartment with my moms since my granddaddy died when I was ten.

It was all over a damn dog.

Bruce Wayne had this white pit bull named Cripto. He’d had a special collar made to order, with little pockets on the inside to keep the rock in. He said he got the idea from a Punisher comic. That was a mean ass dog and it wouldn’t let nobody touch it but him. I used to tell him I thought one of the pockets had ripped and Cripto had got a nose full of shit, because that damn dog acted like a crackhead.

Bruce Wayne loved that dog though, and he would tell me to shut the fuck up about it.

Now you know Bruce Wayne wasn’t that nigga’s real name. It was really Bruce Wayne Charles. Nigga was crazy about comic books. He went by Bruce Wayne, or B-Wayne, or Mista Wayne. Nigga changed his name more times than Diddy. I just called him B like I always had when we was kids.

After me and him got jumped into the Hoovers and he started makin’ his papes, B got hisself a big gold chain thick as a baby’s wrist with this fat ass bat signal hung on it. The bat was all in diamonds and the yellow part was gold. It was sick. Like I said, nigga was crazy about comic books.

He used to say me and him was gonna O.G. a clique one day, and all the gangstas was gonna have superhero names. Five Deuce SupaFiends, he wanted to call it. Nigga wanted me to call myself Black Bolt or some gay shit. My nickname J-Hoss though, after John Horse, this Black Seminole my granddaddy used to tell me stories about.

And anyways, I like the X-Men.

It was a real hot night. We 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.

They didn’t pay no attention to us and I told B to keep chill, ‘cause I knew even though he was strapped I’d left my deuce deuce at home and I didn’t want no ‘plex.

I hadn’t never been no killa then. Sure, I busted caps in a couple fools, beat some slobs down, but I ain’t never heard nothin’ ‘bout none of ‘em dyin.’

Anyways they was five of ‘em, all bald-headed in they khaki shorts with they socks pulled up and they little mustaches and wife beaters, lookin’ all the same like soldiers. They had this trick with ‘em, hair all wet lookin’ and lotsa lipstick like they like ‘em. She had a dog in her arms, if you could call it a dog. It was one of them yappy little Mexican mutts like in the Taco Bell ads. Ain’t no fuckin’ dog. This one was black. Never seen a black one before. Looked more like a big ant than a little dog.

Cripto got a whiff of that motherfucker and stood up, and I guess that little dog smelt him too, ‘cause next thing we knew it had jumped out that bitch’s arms and was bouncin’ around in a circle barkin’ its goddamn head off.

Now I thought B had Cripto hooked to something, but that fool had just put his foot on the chain while he ate, and that motherfucker got loose and run across the parking lot, the chain just dancin’ and janglin’ behind.

It run right up to that little yappin’ mutt, right in the middle of them SSC’s. It picked that little bitch up in its teeth and bit down, gave it a shake. Thing stopped yappin’ right there. I think I heard the neck snap clean across the parking lot.

Then Cripto, big dumbass that he was, come trottin’ back to me and B with the thing hangin’ out his mouth, like he was bringin’ us a rabbit or something.

“Oh shit, ” B says, ‘cause all them Cholos come marchin’ in behind the dog, and the dog come right at us, and the bitch was cryin’ and screamin’ about her perrito.

“’Ay! ‘Ay!” one of the Cholos yelled, and they all started yellin’ at once, callin’ us motherfuckers. This big one run up and put his foot down on Cripto’s chain, pullin’ him up short. He dropped the dead dog on the ground and the bitch started yellin’ in Spanish for them to kill ‘these two niggers and their fuckin’ dog.’

The big one picked up Cripto’s chain and pulled him up to his shoulder, so Cripto was on his back legs, chokin’ and snappin’ and fightin’ to get away.

“This your dog, homie?”

“Yeah ma’fucka and you better let him go,” said B.

I didn’t like that dumb fuckin’ dog, but I hated to see him gaggin’ that way, twistin’ on the chain.

“The fuck you say, puto?”

“You heard him ma’fucka,” I say.

“What set you with, puto? You a ma’fuckin’ crab?”

Me and B looked at each other, and B pulled up his shirt, showin’ his orange belt.

It drove ‘em crazy. They was like dogs theyselves, and they started into thowin’ up they set, twistin’ they fingers up and frontin’ hard, talkin’ ‘bout they Hoover Killa Criminals and they goin’ fuck us up.

B backed up a bit, and that drove ‘em crazier, ‘cause they figured they had us faded. They stepped to us, and the big motherfucker pulled Cripto off his feet, but B bumped against me like he meant to, and I took his Glock out the small of his back and pulled it, unlocked and cocked.

I only wanted to scare them slobs off…

Gully Gods is coming soon in Four In The Morning.

There are several international charitable organizations which work toward preventing and raising the awareness of the forced ‘enlistment’ of children in combat and rehabilitating former child soldiers. Among them are:

http://childsoldiersinitiative.org

http://childsoldierrelief.org

http://www.warchild.org

The United States has its own child soldier dilemma, and it doesn’t gain much sympathy from the public. There are a few organizations out there that work with lower income communities and troubled youth in danger of becoming victims of the pervading gang culture. An internet search will turn up any number in your own area. All of them are in dire need of support.

http://homeboy-industries.org

(LA-based organization that exclusively trains and employs ex-gang members and at-risk youth. ‘Nothing stops a bullet like a job.’ Homeboy is currently on the rocks and could definitely use some help.)

http://www.catholiccharitiesusa.org

http://www.resurrectionproject.org

(works to improve the historic Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago with affordable housing, childcare, and community outreach programs)

EDIT: Gully Gods now appears in my collection With Sword And Pistol from Ragnarok Publications!

http://www.amazon.com/Sword-Pistol-Edward-M-Erdelac-ebook/dp/B0140F624S/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1441037550&sr=8-1&keywords=with+sword+and+pistol

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.’