Good News, Bad News.

Good news and bad news.  An update from the cave.  The hermit shambles forth from the dark mouth, a decree on his chapped lips.

(That’s me, by the way.)

Let’s start with the bad news: it seems unlikely that my work with The New American Apocalypse will continue, at least not for a long time (by which point it will be no longer topical and probably forgotten by its readers).  I know, I know–we were all looking forward to the final battle between our brainburnt narrator and the squirming tentacles of fascist, greed-driven evil, but I’ve fallen several entries behind and have taken on too many projects to spend much time catching up…and certainly not before voting day.

Perhaps I’ll resurrect the story and finish it soon, maybe 2 years from now, maybe in the form of a smaller, less-improvised, and even more grotesque little chap-book.  Who knows?  I don’t.  And even if I did, I would carry the idea in secret, hidden beneath the tattered folds of my yellow cloak.

On to the good news!

The good news: the reason The New American Apocalypse has been on the back-burner for so long, and the forces behind my decision to suspend all work on it (at least for some time) is because I’m juggling too many other, larger projects.  I am plodding along, slowly but surely, on a sequel to No Grave.  It’s unlikely to see release before mid-2017, but it’s getting done.  The Brownstone crew and the sundry other characters wrapped up in this world of shadows, secrets, and scares will visit upon you again!  Fear not…or, yeah, probably fear a little.

The second piece of news: I am also plodding forth in my dealings with the large (and largely-abandoned) town of Oceanrest, Maine.  By now, some of you might’ve noticed a story about a black house in the woods, or about a strange CD linked to hallucinatory effects, or about a man who wakes up every morning haunted by the ghosts of the future.  Or maybe you’ve just heard about Oceanrest from a mysterious diary page found in a rotting pile of debris.  In any case, the setting is going places.  I’ve hinted at something for a while and, to excuse my seeming abandonment of my improvisational blog project, perhaps it is time I came clean and told you: there are talks of a novel.  I’ve written it, three full from-scratch drafts and months in revisions and rewrites, working happily with editorial staff from various interested parties.  I don’t want to give away too much, in case we get caught in development/contractual hell, but there may be copies available in bookstores in the foreseeable future (assuming we do not all drown in hellfire or nuclear radiation first).  Expect to see more Oceanrest short stories in e-zines, magazines, and on my blog, and (hopefully) you’ll be able to get a larger look at the town and its denizens in the not-too-distant future.

The third piece of news: I am writing a podcast.  As these things often are, the podcast is being created on a tightwire budget above a vast crevasse of darkness, but the people in charge are people I’ve worked with on other projects and who have a history of creating quality goods despite (or because of) budgetary limitations.  They have a strong track record and I trust them.  These words will reach your ears, sooner or later, through the lips of talented voice actors.  Of course, I’ve never written a podcast before–and this is why, in the past four months, I have gone from 1 podcast subscription with 40 “heard” episodes, to 15 podcast subscriptions with 266 “heard” episodes.  I’ve been learning the ropes, writing and revising episodes, etc… and this has, in addition to the above-mentioned news, taken time.

So, between an upcoming Furies book, a possible Oceanrest book (and more Oceanrest stories in general), and a podcast…my plate is a bit full.  And so we bid (hopefully brief) adieu to our New American Apocalypse and its tentacular evils in order to march more steadily forward.

With great love and hope and utter sky-rending terror,

Spencer

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Out of the Dark: An Update.

Some of you have recently messaged me to ask “where the hell is the American Apocalypse?”

It’s still lurking in the darkness, worry not.  Its destiny will manifest, soon.  Due to its improvisational nature, a call-and-response to the madness of our national climate, its become somewhat run-away and I’ve had to resort to a degree of planning, a method of crafting its future to ensure it drives the deepest possible knife.  This has required a small break, but it will be back in action very soon, limping and squirming its way forward.

I also have other news that I hope will buy me pardon for my silence.

Piece of news #1: that Oceanrest project I mentioned so long ago has gained its landlegs.  Several of them.  I consider it still fairly Top Secret, and so won’t go too much into detail, but I’ve found myself in a position where the world and stories of Oceanrest need my focus.  Expect to see some more Oceanrest flash fiction and Oceanrest news in the near future.  I don’t want to jinx myself so I won’t say more.  If you happen to have an old chicken on its last legs, its eyes half-blind with cataracts, well, feel free to sacrifice it in my name.  If your chicken is healthy, however, consider giving it a name.  “Henry,” for instance.

Piece of news #2: I’ve started work on No Peace.  Oh, yes, I should clarify– No Peace is the third book of The Furies series, a sequel to No Grave.  I’ve only just now started scrawling the project in earnest, so release isn’t on the horizon, but between opening No Peace and my work on the Oceanrest project, my writing time isn’t as vast as it used to be.

Piece of news #3: I’ve taken to writing more non-fiction.  This isn’t of any particular note, really, although I now have some biased political screeds on http://perspectyve.com — but my sudden interest in essays and op-eds has proven distracting.  Does anyone really care about my thoughts on horror and dark fiction?  I doubt it.  Yet, I am compelled to write them down.  Maybe one day I’ll throw them on the blog, here, but for now I think it’s best if I keep my damned opinions to myself.

Piece of news #4: website re-design.  Several of the plugins and the previous theme I’d been using on this site have caused problems and site downages, preventing my precious words from finding their homes in your eager skulls.  Because I’m a narcissistic writer-type, I find this to be unacceptable.  So the site is undergoing the slow process of revision and “rewrite.”  As I hobble forth on this endeavor, there may be issues, though hopefully no site downages anymore.  This also takes time away from American Apocalypse.

But worry not, squidlings.  With the beginnings of a plan in hand, I’ve already started drafting the next segment and will have it online as soon as all these other horrors allow.

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Short Story Release; No Grave Available!

“He woke up, again, to the same alarm as always: static hiss of radio underscoring the accentless newsman as he said, ‘…he went to the gun locker, opened it, and took out the rifle.’ He slapped the radio off before he heard the rest of the story and pushed himself up out of bed. Sarah shifted on the mattress next to him, an airy sigh slipping from her lips as she curled up in the covers. She never heard the newsman, no matter how many times he said the exact same thing. They’d had a fight about it, once. She always heard a rock song, from Oceanrest Rock & Blues Radio. The same song, every time…something by Nine Inch Nails, but he couldn’t remember the title. He only ever heard the news report, the same news report, over and over again.”

So begins “A Man Wakes Up Any Morning,” a short story I wrote published in Sanitarium Magazine, Issue #38.  Sanitarium is a great horror mag–I’ve been a subscriber for quite some time and I am thrilled to be part of it, now.  I highly recommend picking up a copy, if you can.

The ebook is available on Amazon.com US, Amazon UK,  Apple News Stand, and Google Play Store, with PDF, EPUB, and other digital editions available through the Issue Release Page.

It’s also available in the flesh (or paper, as it were) on Amazon.com.

And while we’re here, I’d like to bump No Grave for the millionth time.  It’s the sequel to my first release, No Reflection, and a far superior book in my utterly biased and completely un-humble opinion.

No Grave is available in digital format at Smashwords.com, Amazon.com, and Barnes & Noble.

No Grave is also available in the gruesome, gruesome flesh at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

Thanks for the continued support.  Enjoy the grim, terrible experience and we’ll talk again very, very soon.

Sooner than you think, dear readers.

Sooner, maybe even, than you would like…

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Buy No Grave Today!

NoGraveCoverAs some (all?) of you know, No Grave is finally available for purchase as eBook and paperback!  A very exciting time!

It’s available in paperback through Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble right now!

It’s also available in eBook, for those who prefer your literature be electronic (and/or you just really want it RIGHT NOW! which I understand and am deeply grateful for) — you can pickup a digital copy of the book at Smashwords, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

Check it out, today!  If you live in the Rochester or NYC areas, I’ll even sign it for you!  I promise not to write anything crude!

I’ve also started work on a blog project, which I’ve very very very loosely outlined.  You can find the first entry here and the second one here.  I’m trying to release an update every week or two, to keep you all entertained while I work on the next book in The Furies series (…as well as a couple other projects I shan’t announce, yet).

Thanks for stopping in.

See you soon, readers.

See you…very soon.

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No Grave: Monster in the Lamplight

Hey, guys!  Just another friendly reminder that No Grave is coming out…THIS WEEKEND!!

So are we ready for another sneak peek?

Today we’re going to take another look at Cyrus’ story, this time from a much later excerpt.  I don’t want to give away anything you’ll wind up reading, later, but I’ll say that things haven’t been going exceedingly well for him…

(Remember to pre-order your digital copy today!  Available on Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, Kobo, etc…)

Here we go:

 

In the backseat of the cab, Cyrus touched the necklace Kenya had given him.  It still felt warm, the bones with that long sweeping symbol cut in them like dying coals.  He’d never felt the spell go off with such power, before.  It was amazing what someone could do with the proper tools.  He released the warm necklace and pulled his backpack off.  He unzipped it and found his laptop smashed inside.  The fight hadn’t been kind to it.

“Son of a bitch…”

The cab driver glanced at the rearview mirror.  “Something wrong?”

“No,” Cyrus answered, “just had a fall, broke my laptop.”

“Rough.  Those don’t come cheap.”

“Tell me about it,” he zipped the backpack shut and slipped it back on.  Even with Kenya footing the bill for the travel and lodging, it had been an expensive trip.  He was already down a hundred bucks cash, a cellphone, and a laptop.  His cheek throbbed and his body ached.

Stay focused, the words crossed his mind in Kenya’s voice, as if she were scolding him from hundreds of miles away.

He leaned his forehead against the cool window and watched the streets roll by.  The closer they got to ‘downtown,’ whatever that meant in Boston, the more people he saw.  It wasn’t the same volume of late-night business he got in New York on a Thursday, but it was enough of a crowd to give him comfort.

Until he saw the thing in the hoodie staring at him from under a streetlight.

It wasn’t human, though it looked like one.  It had the requisite fingers, toes, nose, eyes, mouth…but its skin was the color of old ashes, and its eyes were jaundiced and bloodshot.  Its nails were clawlike, too long and too sharp to belong on its hands.  Its horrible eyes met his, and Its head turned as the cab moved forward.

Cyrus tore his eyes away from the figure and sank down in his seat.  He needed a weapon.  The men in the bar were bad enough, mundane figures tracking him on foot or through his phone, but that thing looked like Darkplace.  That thing was a monster.  He felt himself shaking and wrapped his arms around his shoulders.  What the hell is going on?—it didn’t make any sense.  It was impossible that this many people were all hunting the same Chosen, wasn’t it?  How powerful is Gillian, anyway?

“This good?” the cabbie asked.

Cyrus shook his head, “Maybe another few blocks.”

“Sure, pal.  Sure.”

Cyrus cleared his throat.  “You know where a payphone is?”

The cabbie snorted.  “Can’t say I do.  Haven’t used in one about ten years.”

“Yeah.  Me neither.  Just lost my phone.”

“Laptop and a phone?  Kidding me?”

“Nope.  Been a really shitty week.”

“So up here, then?” the cabbie pointed to a crowded bar on the corner, a mass of smokers and cellphone talkers standing outside.  Cyrus shook his head.  I need open space.  I need to see it coming.  He knew he couldn’t hide from a Darkplace monster.  He’d been trying for almost a decade.

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No Grave: Nicole’s Assignment

Hey, guys!  Just another friendly reminder that No Grave is coming out in a few weeks.

Today’s sneak peek goes back to Nicole, the narrator of No Reflection.  She’s a huge part of No Grave, definitely the lead narrator, and has a lot to juggle.  Living an overcrowded life, shut in by a sunset curfew, and struggling to stay ahead of an increasingly dangerous game, Nicole’s journey through No Grave is fraught with danger, confusion, and a surreal descent into strange visions and dreamscapes.

Straight off the bat of No Grave, Nicole is pulled back into the supernatural swing of things, helping her brownstone crew with a murder investigation, but, of course, her life could never be so simple as just that…

(Remember to pre-order your digital copy today!  Available on Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, Kobo, etc…)

Sneak peek:

 

Goodwin’s phone buzzed, and he peeked at the screen for a second, his demeanor dropping at the sight.  “Well, it seems like I won’t be staying very long, so let’s move on to business, shall we?”

“Let’s.”

He reached down into his leather bag and withdrew a thin folder, sliding it across the table.  “Have you ever heard of a band called The Four Horsemen?  They released two albums, 2002 and 2004, and an unplugged album in 2005.”

“I haven’t heard of them,” Nicole shrugged.

“Ah, well, then…the information is in the folder, but I’ll give you a quick rundown on the basics.  Formed in January of 2002 with their first album release the same year…under the MCA entertainment wing,” he said this last part as though giving her a stern warning, and continued after a beat, “second album in 2004, and a rather messy split in the summer of 2006.  It was a group comprised of four women, if you’ll take a look at the pictures there.”

Nicole flipped through several pages in the folder and arrived at a series of photographs.  There was a photograph of a tall, curvaceous woman with a shock of black hair spilling down to her shoulder blades.  Her pale arms were covered in tattoos, starting at her collarbone, running down both arms, and wreathing her fingers.  The next photo was of a slight, slender woman with shaggy blond hair that arched behind her down to her waist.  Her eyes were narrow, almond-shaped, and her skin reminded Nicole of the bark of a tanned tree.  Nicole thought she’d seen the woman somewhere, before, but couldn’t place it.  She flicked past those photos and found a dozen more of two other women from different angles and in different situations: on stage, in the street, in a promo ad, and at home.  One of them was extremely angular, tall and lean, with a sharp chin, prominent cheekbones, and a jawline that seemed like it could be used as a weapon.  The other had rounded cheeks, an hourglass figure, and full, bright lips.  Crinkled strands of hair fell around her shoulders in loose waves the color of blond coffee.  Her sepia skin looked drained and washed-out, but Nicole imagined men would stare at her, anyway.  The thought made her flinch.  “Who are they?”

“The thin one is named Harley, lead guitarist in the band, and back-up vocals.  The other one is Michelle, bassist and lead lyricist,” Goodwin explained.  “They are not what you would call morning people.”

“I see.”

“Quite.  In any case, I need you to convince them to sign a contract with me,” he tapped his fingers on the edge of the table, “specifically me.  Not the firm, not MCA, just me, Charles Goodwin, Esquire.”

“Did you just refer to yourself by title?” Nicole grinned.

“It helps to remember I went to school for this,” he answered, the everpresent smile tightening on his face.  “In any case, that’s a very important part of the arrangement…because of their history with MCA’s entertainment wing, especially.”

“So you want me to, what?—not tell them what company you work for?”

“Exactly.  Don’t mention MCA to them, at all.” Goodwin folded his hands in front of him, his tone measured and even as he spoke.

“That sounds…like a lie.”

“No, no,” Goodwin rebuffed, “not at all, because they won’t be signing a contract with the company.”

“Just with you?”

“Right.  So it should only be necessary to mention me.”

Nicole’s eyes drifted from the folder in front of her to Goodwin’s face and back again.  “This is very different from the business we usually do together,” she observed, staring at Harley’s face, the hue of her deep, crimson lipstick.

“This is a very different situation from what we’re usually in.  Is that okay with you?”

Not really, she thought, but nodded, anyway, “Yeah…yeah, I can do this.”

“Great.  I’ll be in touch, then.  Don’t be afraid to reach out if you need anything.”

“I won’t be.”

Goodwin stood from the table and pulled his bag from the floor.  “Good, good,” he dug into his pocket and came out with a monogrammed money clip, slipping out a fifty dollar bill and putting it on the table.  “Lunch is on me.  Have a great one.”  He gave her a short nod and was halfway across the restaurant before she could shout a goodbye after him.

Turning back to the folder, she sank down in her seat.  She flipped through pages detailing the life of the now-defunct Four Horsemen, photographs of the principal recruits, and a small CD buried at the back.  She shook her head and closed the file.  As if the case and the line and the e-mails hadn’t been enough…

“Excuse me, miss,” the waiter’s voice snapped her back to the restaurant, “what will you be having this afternoon?”

“Sorry, sorry,” she answered, “could I just have a second to think about it?”

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No Grave: Meet Tristan

Hey, guys!  Just another friendly reminder that No Grave is coming out in a few weeks.  During the lead-up, I’ll be posting a few small segments introducing some of the new cast and helping you remember some of the lovely people you met in No Reflection.  Our second installment will introduce you to Tristan Wallace, monster slayer extraordinaire and another of our narrators.

(Remember to pre-order your digital copy today!  Available on Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, Kobo, etc…)

Now presenting…Tristan Wallace:

 

 

“A liter and a half…that’s some bold shit, mano.”

Alex adjusted his aviator shades.  The sun glinted gold off the lenses as he tilted his face toward the hospital across the street.

“Or desperate,” Tristan replied, scratching a bristling shadow of beard.  Dracs didn’t usually drain that much in one go, not off a single victim.  It was the sort of thing that got noticed, and monsters lived and died by one rule: don’t get noticed.

“A drac starving out in New York?” Alex gestured at the crowd milling over the gum-stained sidewalk.  “No way.  Place is an all-you-can-eat buffet for a smart monster.”

“Never said it was smart,” Tristan muttered.  He pointed to the bun nested on top of Alex’s head, “Speaking of which, boyo…how many times am I going to have to tell you to get a haircut before you swing by a barber’s?”

Alex’s lips parted in an off-white smirk.  “Least one more.”

“One of these days, something’s going to grab you by the hair when you’re trying to make a run for it, and that’ll be the end of that.”

Alex shrugged, leaning back against the slender column of a streetlight.  “We’ll see.”

Tristan stared at the Missing Persons posters plastered up the length of the steel pole.  A young woman’s face peered back from one of them, a girl he’d place in her late teens.  He studied the shape of her nose, the narrow bridge and pointed tip of it, and the way her eyebrows peaked like arrows toward her hairline.  Details were important.  The devil was in them, after all.  A stranger remembering the slight asymmetry of a young woman’s eye height could mean the difference between a family reunion and a funeral.

He’d had a daughter, once.

He tore his eyes away from the photograph and dug his hand into his pants’ pocket to touch the purple chip he carried with him.  It was a small token with a slate texture and a hundred microscopic ridges running along its spine.  He’d earned it at their last meeting two weeks ago.  Nine months sober.  He prayed to it, clutched in his palm like a bundled rosary, and withdrew his hand.  Alex was still staring at the hospital.  Tristan cleared his throat.  “Sam’s late.”

“He’ll be here soon.”

Tristan nodded and tried to keep his eyes away from the dozen Missing Person posters fading white on the lamp post.  He focused on the revolving hospital doors.  There’s a job to do, he reminded himself.  A monster to catch.  He put on a worn, wrinkle-chipped grin.  “What do you think Sammie’s going to set us up with, this time?”

“NYPD, bet on it.  Hell, I’ll put down ten bucks.”

Tristan shook his head, “No deal, boyo.”

“You scared?”

“No, just not stupid.”

Alex’s smirk spread into a full-faced smile.  “NYPD, definitely.”  He pulled on a silver necklace and lifted a small badge from under his shirt, “Boy’s gonna get me in trouble, one of these days.”

“If you don’t do it yourself, first,” Tristan replied.  Alex had used his resources as a legal bounty hunter more than a couple times to help them track a monster through the New York streets.  Of course, rule-breaking was par for the course for a hunter.  “Besides, Sammie’s stuff is solid.”

“Says the guy who didn’t want to recruit him.”

“He’s a good Man in Havana, sure, but the boy’s still a bloody boy.”

“Twenty-five years old.”

“Kidding me, twenty-five years old.  I was half-retired when he was shitting himself in diapers.”

“Yeah, and you’ll be glad to have him when it turns the other way around, old man.”

“Fuck you,” Tristan couldn’t help but laugh at the thought.

“Just saying.”

“And you better say a little less before I show you what kind of tricks an old dog like me’s picked up over the years.”

Alex stepped away from the lamp post with a wide grin, “Go ahead.  Maybe I can show you some new ones.”

Tristan held up a hand and nodded to a figure maneuvering through the thick downtown crowd.  Sam was so grayed out Tristan barely noticed him: he wore an unaccented beige overcoat over olive pants, a plain gray shirt, and featureless sneakers—clothing picked out to blend in, manufactured to vanish.  His bright blond hair was trimmed short, but not military-style, with bowl-cut bangs an inch above his eyebrows and nothing hanging loose around his ears.  He was a bit pale, ghost-like except for the fading remnants of a country tan, but there was plenty of pale to go around in the Financial District.  Tristan smiled.  “At least the boy listens when I tell him something.”

“Yeah, and you still picked him out.”

“I got training for that.”

Tristan could hear Alex’s eyes roll behind the golden sheen of his shades.  “Whatever you say, mano.”

Sam pulled out a pair of leather-bound ID cards as he came up to them, “NYPD detectives.  We’re just doing a routine follow-up interview with the victim…crossing, dotting, the usual type stuff.  Tristan, you’re going in as Detective O’Malley.  Alex, you’ll be Detective Vasquez.”

“Ten bucks,” Alex held out his hand.

“I didn’t take the bet, boyo.”

“Chicken.”

Tristan took the leather-bound bifold from Sam, “And who are you?”

“Be going in as Detective Howard.”

“Howard, Vasquez, O’Malley…sounds a bit memorable.”

“Well…” Sam took a deep breath, the kind people take when they know they’ve screwed up.  “What’s a really common Irish name?”

“Brennan?  O’Brien?”

“So maybe…Detective Brennan and, uh, Detective Ramirez?”

“I get this feeling I’m being typecast,” Alex said.

Tristan snorted, “That’s half the point.  Quick and forgettable.”

“The names’ll have to wait ‘till next time, anyway,” Sam fumbled his own bifold open and showed them the NYPD emblem and ID badge inside.  “I already made everything up under O’Malley and Vasquez, even got it so the badge numbers call up records if someone digs into them.”

“Really?” Alex asked.

“Now, they won’t hold up to a real investigation, but as long as no one starts making phone calls, we should be fine.”

Tristan nodded.  “Then let’s not waste any more daylight.”

They split up, each one weaving away from the others through the lunch hour street traffic.  It was part of their approach ritual.  The monster’s axiom wasn’t just for monsters, after all.  A good hunter was an invisible hand.  A good hunter left a series of vague eyewitness accounts and disconnected paper trails in the wake of a downed beast.  A dead werewolf didn’t look much different from a dead human, after all, and nobody did the world much good behind the coal-colored bars of a prison cell.

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No Grave: Meet Cyrus.

As (all of you?) know, No Grave is coming out in just a few short weeks!  To tickle your curiosity, I’ll be posting a few small segments introducing some of the new cast and helping you remember some of the lovely people you met in No Reflection.  This first little teaser will introduce you to one of our narrators, Cyrus LeSage: Brooklynite, bar manager, and semi-retired witch.

(Remember to pre-order your digital copy today!  Available on Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, Kobo, etc…)

Without further ado, Cyrus LeSage:

 

Cyrus ate food cart breakfast on a sidewalk bench outside of Gilbert Ramirez Park.  He always thought calling the place a ‘park’ was a stretch.  It was a collection of white concrete streets winding around moldy bird fountains and scrappy patches of dying shrubbery.  Pale, splintering benches lined coiled walkways, framed in rusted black metal.  The park sat across from a desolate, walled-in lot of unoccupied land where tall, blue boards cried out ‘POST NO BILLS’ in faded orange stencil.  Despite the fervent demand, nearly every board was covered in vivid graffiti, wild hues of purple and yellow scrambled together in arcs of text and almost-murals.  One of the spray-paintings, a nearly three-dimensional spiral, reminded him of something from his nightmares.  He did his best to avoid looking at it.

The park was a good place to eat.  It was lightly populated.  Small children ran between scrawny trees laughing and playing tag, while older kids threw a tennis ball against a high wall and caught it as it rebounded.  An elderly couple perched on a nearby bench looked on, narrow smiles tickling their faces.  Cyrus had long ago found it was calming to be in the midst of a crowd.  No matter what happened, someone would see it.  It was a pleasant thought, even if it wasn’t true.

Cyrus dropped the Styrofoam serving box in a curbside garbage bin and watched a pair of children chase each other around a birdbath.  He turned to walk down the street when he heard a voice pick up on the autumn wind.

“Cyrus,” it tickled the back of his ears, soft and musical.

He spun around.

Bushwick, he reminded himself, his eyes searching for an unnoticed shadow somewhere between attenuated tree branches.  He took a step toward one of the twisting white walkways and peered down to where it vanished in on itself behind a thicket of bushes.  He listened for another sound.  A high-pitched giggle arced up from around a small hill.

Static crackled between the hairs on his arm.  The air hummed.  A coil of smoke lifted in the back of his mind, a West Virginian campfire window to Darkplace.  An ash-scented memory of the Last Ceremony.

His heart wardrummed in his skull.  It was coming.

A child turned a sharp corner over the crest of the hill and bumped into him.  She was a small girl wearing a floral dress, her hair a black tangle on her head.  She stared at him wide-eyed until a boyish laugh sounded behind her.  She squealed and ran off, leaving him alone with the drums in his head.

Cyrus swallowed.  The only other sounds he heard were clipped exchanges of Spanish and muted voices in the distance.  He looked the park over once more, and started walking away.  He kept close to the park’s wrought iron fence as he moved, hands tense at his sides, glancing over his shoulder every few steps to see if he was being followed.  He’d spent years of his life learning to check if people were following him.

That was before everything else, though.

That was before Kenya Kitteredge and the Coven, before magic was real and Hell was a place he had seen.

Now he had different things to worry about.

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No Grave Inspiration Soundtrack

I create soundtracks when I write, particularly if I’m writing long-form (No Grave, for instance, is a novel).  I find it helps to surround myself with music with similar motifs and emotional resonance when I write.  This is, of course, after all the initial brainstorming is done and I actually sit down at a keyboard or notepad to start work on the actual words (brainstorming is a whole different bag of cats–er–crap).  I usually start off by making a soundtrack of anything I think matches up remotely with what I’m doing.  For No Reflection and No Grave (as well as a couple other half-finished projects I haven’t announced), the first-draft playlist runs about 40 songs.  In perspective, the final draft playlist for No Reflection was 12 songs, and the final draft playlist for No Grave is…15 songs.  There are overlaps between the two soundtracks because they have similar themes, overlapping characters, and, of course, similar setting.

The playlist gets cut as I learn more about the story.  The more I write, the deeper I get into the narrative, the characters, and the action, and the more I figure out what the story is really about in terms of themes, motifs, metaphor, politics, etc… the fewer of the original songs make sense, and the fewer of them serve to put me in the mindset of the story.  They get sloughed off so that by the final draft the playlist is significantly shorter and more poignant…actually, they’re rather like the words, themselves, in that way.

I was under the impression, for most of this, that nobody really cared what I listened to when I wrote things.  Since I have had three different people ask about it, this week, however, I’m beginning to think that maybe I was wrong?  In any case, instead of simply answering the people who asked, I decided I would put it out for anyone, anywhere, at any time, to read.

Without further ado, the track list for my inspiration soundtrack for No Grave (I have added links to those artists who have posted their work online — I’ve done my best to make sure the link is sourced from the artist, so if I’ve messed up, please let me know):

1. Lauren O’Connell – House of the Rising Sun
2. Johnny Cash – Ain’t No Grave
3. LEGS OCCULT – There’s a Sadness
4. Dinah Washington/Max Richter – This Bitter Earth/Nature of Daylight
5. Lorde – Biting Down
6. Johnny Cash – Hurt
7. LEGS OCCULT – Breathe
8. Nine Inch Nails – The Wretched (Keith Hillebrandt Mix)
9. Marilyn Manson – Golden Age of Grotesque
10. Lauren O’Connell – Oh Death
11. John Murphy – In the House – In a Heartbeat (from the 28 Days Later OST)
12. The Crawdiddies – Ain’t No Grave
13. Marilyn Manson – This is Halloween
14. Tom Waits – Dirt in the Ground
15. Marilyn Manson – Spade

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No Grave Sneak Peek #6: Cyrus Sees Something

Cyrus looked out over the bar and saw ten or so customers clustered in groups around the whiskey barrel tables.  He cleaned what few glasses they’d used in the sink beneath the countertop. Afterwards, he’d let the warm water run for a little longer over his hands.  It was a soothing feeling.

“Hey,” a broad-chested man walked up to the bar and waved to Cyrus.  “Could I get a whiskey and diet?”

“Any particular kind of whiskey?”

“Jack Daniels.”

“Coming right up,” Cyrus turned towards the shelves of liquor bottles.  He reached out and grabbed the neck of the Jack Daniels, pulling it from the lower shelf and there was a body inside, a voodoo doll made of charred reeds tied together with bloody tendons.  It was a blackened crinkled husk, reeds singed and burnt, with a twisted, shrunken head bound on top by tanned ligature.  Its mouth hung open, cracked and toothless, and there were divots where eyes would’ve been, warped into alien shapes by whatever cruel torment had cooked it.  With a start, Cyrus  dropped the bottle and it landed with a heavy thunk on the counter by the cash register.  There was nothing in it but amber whiskey.

He took a sharp breath and reached back out to pick it up.  He held it aloft and rotated it, examining the liquid in the dim overhead light of the bar.  The customer cleared his throat, “You alright there?  Looks like maybe you should cut yourself off.”  Cyrus turned back towards him, trying to ignore the stupid grin on the man’s face, and selected a glass from the shelving on the opposite side of the register.

“I’m fine,” Cyrus replied, shoving the glass into the container of ice under the bar.  “Just been having a rough week,” he cracked a smile at the customer as he poured in a generous helping of whiskey, followed by a more restrained use of the Diet Coke.  “That’ll be eight dollars.”

“No problem,” the customer fished out a ten dollar bill and left it on the counter, taking the drink with him.  “Drive safe!”

Cyrus nodded without answering and took the cash from the countertop.  What the hell was that?

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