Vitus returns this November in My Loaded Gun, My Lonely Heart.
In addition, I was pleased to hear that Sein Und Werden was nominated for a British Fantasy Award 2015 for best magazine/periodical alongside Black Static, Holdfast Magazine, Lightspeed and Interzone. Sein Und Werden pushes the envelope and everyone involved, from contributors to guest editors and head editor Rachel Kendall herself, work damn hard to make it happen, and I’m happy as hell to see Sein Und Werden on the roster there.
Here it is, folks — the cover for My Loaded Gun, My Lonely Heart. Covers bring that magical element to the process as it becomes apparent that yes, this is indeed really happening. I’m pleased with the result, especially considering the subject matter of the story itself. My wonderful editor and the folks at Talos are looking at November release this year for this one. Brace yourselves — promotions are coming!
Here’s the summary from the Amazon page:
“If you don’t know by now, we don’t deal in happy endings here . . .”
Vitus Adamson has a second chance at life now that he’s no longer a zombie, but after killing his brother Jamie, Vitus lands in prison on murder charges. Jamie’s death exposes secret government projects so deep in the black they cannot be seen—without Vitus, that is.
Sprung from jail, the government hires Vitus to clean up Jamie’s mess, but tracking down his brother’s homemade monsters gone rogue is easier said than done. A convicted killer safely behind bars may not be so safe after all when it appears he is still committing murder through his victim’s dreams. High on Atroxipine (the drug that once kept him functioning among the living) and lapsing into addiction, Vitus’s grip on reality takes a nasty turn when his own dreams start slipping sideways.
His problems multiply as he deals with his failed friendship with wheelchair-bound officer Geoff Lafferty, his wrecked romance with the town mortician Niko, government agents working for his father, sinister figures lurking in the shadows, and least of all, the complications of learning how to be human again.
Secret agents, conspiracy theories, broken hearts and lonely souls, the siren song of prescription drugs . . . In My Loaded Gun, My Lonely Heart, readers are invited to discover life after undeath, where there are no happy endings.
If you achieve any measure of success in the fiction writing field, measured here by if you manage to be published and be paid for what you wrote, it becomes common to hear the words “talent” applied. People assume you were born with a pen in your hand, you have something other within you that allows you to fashion words in a way that other people are simply lacking. You possess a knack for wordsmithing intrinsic to your internal self.
I can’t speak for the legion of writers who argue the talent versus persistence argument or derivations thereof; what I know is that I was not born with it. Gasp! I know. Blasphemer that I am, I wanted to confess.
I was not born with a muse astride my shoulder, I was not born with a pen in hand. If anything, I had the opposite experience.
Hard to say what happened to the wiring in my brain. I was a bright, laughing child thrown into odd circumstances with numerous challenges. But all in all, I was given the tools to explore, to learn, and to engage with my environment in every way possible before I even set foot into grade school. However, as the deadline neared, it became apparent something was off, something was different.
When they sat me down with pen and paper in an effort to teach me to write my name, the elements of writing could never coalesce. It wasn’t merely that I was learning something new — I could not make sense of the cyphers and figures. Words bent and mirror scripted. Walked backwards and crawled up the walls and off the paper. These sessions ended with hair raising screams and running away. I was not a loud or noisy or greedy or disruptive child. From the start, I presented as introspective, analytical, and weirdly older than my age. For me to throw pen and paper to the ground was unusual.
I was diagnosed with the learning disability of dyslexia. I laugh with the common jokes that come with the territory, but it doesn’t describe the shape and form of what happens inside my skull — things turn backwards and inside out. I would go to the wrong side of doors and cars, put on clothes backwards, shoes on the wrong foot, and time itself was illusory, difficult to wrangle and catch hold of. Buildings did not seem correctly built for my needs and shifted their exteriors, doorknobs slippery and turning in the wrong direction. A switch tripped between what I saw and what the reality was.
Words, nor numbers, then, were not my forte. Instead, teachers and parents forced me to learn the language of the masses, not the language of my native senses. From the start, I was constrained and frustrated; at the time, it was miserable. I had to restart the school year from scratch. They put me into the “slow classes” where I stayed until they advanced me in middle school. There, I did not fit in with either those children, nor the ones in the regular classes. From the beginning and ever after, I would always be fringe, liminal, and between worlds, belonging to none, in the world but not of it. Uncanny, by my very nature.
It was a miserable son of a bitch teaching fifth grade classes who inadvertently forced my thinking into another direction. When the time came to sort students out into different groups of readers, with assignments of varying difficulty, I was relegated to the bottom level. I became incensed. After all this time finally mastering writing and reading along with my peers, I saw no reason why I should not have a say in my own education. My anti-authoritarian identity became restless; I took matters into my own hands. Though I could not promote myself in the class, I swiped a copy of the book the advanced readers were assigned, and read it on my own, without help. The book was Watership Down by Richard Adams.
This was but the beginning. Many encounters with written works, words, and writers, would slowly take part in my formation as a writer. I wrote in earnest, awful, limping stories that barely made it over the finish line. Novellas of the worst nature, fit for firewood and not much else. Yet, they were the beginning, and I sent the first of my god-awful stories out when I was thirteen or fourteen, in 1994, when print markets had to be submitted to by mail, and earned my first rejection slips.
Today, I’m actively submitting stories to pro venues and sometimes, they publish me and pay me enough money to keep the electric on. Better yet, Skyhorse Publishing has taken me onto their roster and published Bring Me Flesh, I’ll Bring Hell, my debut last year, and this year, My Loaded Gun, My Lonely Heart.
The assumption becomes that I must be really good at this writing thing. Kinda, sorta, maybe. I don’t know. What I do know is that I still reverse my words from time to time and reading words inverted is effortless. My co-workers in my graphics department have a laugh about how I’m the only one who works on advertisements upside down and sideways without changing the layout to suit myself. I don’t see why I should — the words are still the same no matter which direction they go in. It has become the strength through which I solve problems, to look at the world from a dynamic perspective, and perceive totalities and patterns others miss by inverting the way we define things. And this often bleeds into the stories themselves — characters whose viewpoints are challenged, their fundamental understandings shaken, and unable to take the most commonplace ideas for granted.
The point is, I started out with strikes against me. I started out with a learning disability and through sheer stubbornness and contrariness, learned the craft and will always be learning it. Mistakes will be made. Tears will be shed and blood and sweat spilled. I compete against people far more intelligent and competent than I and I expect, nay, demand, no quarter be given. If writing is something you want to do, pursue it. Don’t hold back because you think, not me, I’m not good enough, I wasn’t born with the right talent, the right skills, the right abilities. I sure as hell wasn’t. By no right or stroke of fortune should I even be here, doing what I do.
In some cases, resistance is not the thing that prevents one’s success, but the very force that propels it.
A think it was perhaps five years ago, a had a handful of credits to my name when Vince Liaguno let me know he wanted to publish my short story “Twilighters” in his next anthology. For the most part, I forgot about it entirely, and I’m thrilled to hear that Evil Jester Press will be publishing Unspeakable Horror 2: Abominations of Desire this October.
I consider myself a writer in infancy, though I keep conquering the various hurdles in my way; as such, the TOC is humbling, and I really don’t know how I’m sandwiched between so many incredible names. I spend so much of my time pushing my ego beneath my heel, it’s hard to recognize when I’ve accomplished something; it ensures that my gratitude is never half-hearted, and I take nothing for granted.
I hope you all will enjoy my twist on what horrors the term “twilight” implies, when wielded by a sadistic hand in “Twilighter.”
Deconstructing Desire/Vince A. Liaguno
Unspeakable Desire/ Chad Helder
Fugitive Colours / Erastes
Underground / Marshall Moore
Ofrenda / Lisa Morton
Clearing Clutter / Michael Hacker
The Grief Season / Lee Thomas
Investment Opportunity / Evan J Peterson
A Soldier’s Mercy / Martel Sardina
Twilighter / Martin Rose
Tabula Rasa / Brad C. Hodson
Caldera / Helen Marshall
Bent on Midnight Frolic / Tom Cardamone
Murder on the Prurient Express / David Nickle
Rougarou / Greg Herren
Bargain Books / Vince A. Liaguno and Chad Helder
The Sisterhood / RB Payne
Kissyface / Stephen Graham Jones
The Shell / Norman Prentiss
Lagan / Gemma Files
a strange form of life / Laird Barron
Allow me to introduce myself. You’ll know me as Salazar, and I’m led to understand I’m the resident villain in Martin Rose’s story, “Mirrorworld” from Death’s Realm, an anthology published by an enterprising company called Grey Matter Press. Not quite what I thought I’d be known for, given all the gossip and occult practices, but they say there’s no such thing as bad press.
When Martin Rose told me I’d have to write a blog post about death and dying, I thought of Samarra. And who better to instruct you on the nature of death, than an occultist such as myself?
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:
A servant runs errands for his employer in the city, where he runs into Death. Terrified, he races back to his master to beg him the use of his horse, so he can run to safety in Samarra. The employer agrees, and decides to demand answers from Death himself. When he gets there, Death explains it’s all a misunderstanding, he was just shocked to see his servant in the marketplace, when he has an appointment with him later that evening in Samarra.
Like the servant in Samarra, we are always headed to our appointment. This does not require a particular belief on your part. Like the laws of thermodynamics, death persists without your consent. And death is what I want to reveal to you now.
When we talk about death, the end point of our lives, we are talking about time.
When we talk about time, we talk about light.
When we talk about light, we talk about the sun.
When we talk about the sun, we talk about planets and stars, minutes, degrees, conjunctions and orbits, ellipses and occultations.
We see our time and our place here on earth as a straight line, a horizon. As we get older, we understand a straight line isn’t very accurate. More like a circle, right? That’s the thing I hear is all the rage these days, time being circular, or a figure 8, or some other such nonsense.
That’s not true, either. Time is more like a sphere. You forget there are stars underneath you as well as above you, and anywhere you stand on a sphere is always the highest point. On the horizon, stars align with you. Like the flower that grows in a clay pot, the soil is the matter that determines the majority of your life, your health, your longevity. That’s what the universe and its stars are – the very soil we germinate within. Like the flower, we think we have free will. And like the flower, for all our free will, we aren’t free to walk out of our clay pot any time we please.
This brings us right back around to death again. Death, which we pretend isn’t there, Death, which we pretend is nothing to fuss about. And we’re right – it isn’t something to spend your time worrying about. It will come when it’s damn good and ready, and until that point, it’s really the life that becomes the tragedy, not your imminent and assured ending.
If you’re lucky, you’ll have a few seconds in which you will become aware that you are dying. You will know it, not as an abstract concept you can put off with another cigarette, or that sugar coated donut, or a new car, a pair of shoes, another sexual conquest. All these things give the impression of life – but is it really living? Will it matter, once you reach the finish line?
You will know death as a reality.
Time will do something funny, then; it will simultaneously speed up and slow down. Time as you know it, is racing to an end. The planets, light years beneath you, and the stars and galaxies, light years around you, are all moving in concert and spelling out the time stamp of your demise. It’s a brilliant symphony, whose song resonates beyond our ken, our vision, our sight.
Your arrival at Samarra is assured. You know you are dying. You will feel the full spectrum of emotion – panic, regret, pleasure, euphoria, relief, frustration, rage. You imagine you’ll bust apart with all these emotions battering you from the inside, and then a remarkable thing will happen.
Just like that.
It will be ordinary, and unremarkable, and anti-climactic. These senses, discriminations, biases, idiosyncrasies that came with your body and your body chemistry will fall away from you. When it does, you’ll achieve a razor sharp clarity you never had in life, in which you realize all the dumb shit you did that you should not have done. You’ll be there to see it elapse, but without panic or fear or love within you anymore, there isn’t much to do. For all intents and purposes, you’ve become a traveler at a bus station, holding a ticket in one hand, waiting.
Not very exciting, is it? That’s why I wouldn’t bother about it. All these religious wars and such that go on, you’d do much better concentrating on life itself. Because though you’ll be on that next bus out before long, the thing of it is, you only get this one particular life. You won’t even be able to take your memories with you. You have to leave your bags at the depot – even if those bags were packed with your salary, your spouse, your children, your titles, your education, your awards. All of it will be left behind.
It’s not the death we are fated to, but the life itself. The death is just incidental. You’ll forget about this blog post. Time will bury it. It will not raise a flicker in your thoughts when your appointment in Samarra comes. But you may – as you find yourself waiting at the depot – have a vague inkling that you were here before. You will be here again. And should you find that memory, time will take on a slinky effect, contracting through space to this very moment, with you poised above a screen, your finger on the button – yes, you! Right here, right now! — and you’ll realize that you are both dead and alive, at the station and right here, life and death occurring simultaneously at all points, like a turning wheel whose spokes spin so fast, each one occupies the space of the spoke before it effortlessly – like the hundred mile per hour revolutions of a planet, a star.
And then, you know what happens?
Some whiskey drinking asshole author tells you you’re fictitious character in a story, and they have a good laugh at your expense while they see the expression on your face.
Right up until you lean forward and ask, “Hey, Martin – do you ever think about who’s writing you?”
And together, we look up at the mighty and terrible stars, and wait our turn.
Grey Matter Press has initiated a blog tour for their anthology, Death’s Realm. Today is Day Two with John F.D. Taff. From the Grey Matter Press site:
Taff, author of the heartbreaking tale “Some Other Day,” featured in DEATH’S REALM: Where the Here and the Hereafter Collide, knows a little something about death, as he shows us in “Some Other Day,” a story about a father and his son attempting to deal with the pain of their new lives following the death of their wife and mother.
Taff takes on the subject of reincarnation in Let’s Get Born Again!. Find out what this noted horror author believes will happen to us after we’re gone.
Let’s Get Born Again is available at Taff’s wordpress, here.