Unspeakable Horror 2: Abominations of Desire

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.”

Seventeen original stories to the collection, with several reprints. Cover designed by the talented Deena Warner of Deena Warner Design. 11159518_10153238116824268_8559416497401158057_n Table of Contents: Introduction:

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

Unspeakable Horror 2: Abominations of Desire

Appointment With Salazar

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.

You’ll die.

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.

Appointment With Salazar

Death’s Realm Blog Tour – Day Two with John F. D. Taff

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.

Death’s Realm Blog Tour – Day Two with John F. D. Taff

Death’s Realm Tour From Grey Matter Press Kicks Off Today

From Grey Matter Press’s website:

Author Jay Caselberg begins the 16-day DEATH’S REALM  Death and Dying Tour with a very special guest post on the Grey Matter Press website — his short story “Early,” based on a terrifying personal experience with the dead.

Caselberg’s “Early,” while a work of fiction, is based on a real-life encounter with a ghost. We greatly appreciate the fact that Jay was willing to give away this piece and thank him for sharing it with us to begin the tour.

Enjoy “Early” by Jay Caselberg, and make sure to check out his “Penumbra,” a tale of true love gone very, very wrong that is featured in DEATH’S REALM: Where the Here and the Hereafter Collide.

Check out Jay Caselberg’s story here.

Death’s Realm Tour From Grey Matter Press Kicks Off Today

Interview with Jamie Mason, author of Kezzie of Babylon

I connected with Jamie Mason through Facebook last year, and he held my attention through his interesting viewpoints and unique perspective on the world. After awhile, I ended up exposed to his short work, which led me to his new release, Kezzie of Babylon, a rip-roaring zombie apocalypse adventure. I invited  him to virtually sit down with me, if you will, to discuss his fiction, his process, and the tumult that is life; welcome Jamie Mason to the blog.

Let’s give readers a little background on you. What should we know about Jamie Mason?

In broad strokes, the picture is pretty conventional. Born in Montreal, went to college in the States, returned to Canada 22 years later. It’s only in the details that a life becomes interesting. Such as, for instance, the fact that I grew up in a series of cult- and cult-like environments. Also, that my life became abruptly derailed when my parents went to prison and I lost more or less everything and was forced to start from scratch earning $4.75 per hour doing sales cold calls. I’ve been a professional musician, a self-defense instructor, a teacher, a security guard, a clerk/typist (I’m currently employed as a PI).

Throughout all of this, writing has been the one thread that’s tied everything together. It’s kept me sane. Without it, I’d probably have been one of those guys you read about in the news who walks into a shopping mall and starts gunning people down.

You’ve accumulated a large body of work in a few years time, consisting of two novels and forty plus stories. I want to talk to you about Kezzie of Babylon, but let’s rewind first. How’d you get started writing? How did you start as a writer seeking professional status?

The writing began sIMG_0380pontaneously at age 7. Whatever else my mother did wrong, she gave me a love of books. We had an electric typewriter at our house and I became fascinated by the challenge of creating things on it that resembled the pages in books I read (this was before I knew about typesetting). I wrote my first novel in seventh grade, handwritten in notebooks during math class. It was an espionage novel.

I don’t believe in “professional” writers. What the fuck is that, anyway? If you mean some guy who makes a living writing, you can count them on the fingers of one hand. Anyway, the term “literature” has been rendered more or less meaningless in the age of self-pubbing and Amazon direct-to-market vanity projects. What do you call someone who’s conscientiously devoted the past 25 years of his life to learning to write well (apart from “misguided”)? A writer. There are writers and non-writers. And wannabes. I suppose I’m a writer.

You’ve got a first novel, Echo, first published in 2011 from Drollerie Press, and more recently, about to be reissued by Permuted Press. A first novel marks an important stage in an author’s career. What did you learn? What would you have done different?

Echo was reviewed and accepted for publication fairly quickly by a publisher called Drollerie Press. Selena Green, their marketing VP, was very enthusiastic about the project. We had an uphill battle pushing the novel through the editorial process because, unbeknownst to us, the owner was planning to shut the press down. We pushed out an e-edition which reached an Amazon sales ranking of 14,000 or so before Drollerie’s owner vanished. I never saw a royalty check, although Selena and I remain friends. We collaborated on bringing out the current (second) edition and I still involve her in projects from time to time. I recommend her as a freelance editor and typesetter.

What would I do different? Nothing, really. There was no way to predict what happened. It just happened. It sucked, but I adapted. Like Master Kan counseled Grasshopper in Kung-Fu when asked whether or not to trust people: “Trust! But expect surprises.”

I read a synopsis of Echo, which is sci-fi, and you followed up with Kezzie, which is firmly in the zombie/horror camp. What inspired the transition, and do you prefer a particular genre?

It was a surprisingly easy transition. I’ve always straddled the sci-fi/fantasy fence quite comfortably, so writing a zombie story for Exile Edition’s Dead North zombie antho back in 2013 seemed like an easy way to make some bread. Well, I made more than that — I made an invaluable friend in the person of Silvia Moreno-Garcia, a very fine Mexican-Canadian writer who edited the project. I’m very proud of our professional association. Have you read her new novel, Signal To Noise? You should …

For me, genre is a vehicle to convey stories I have experienced that would be otherwise impossible to share with people. For example, how do you explain what it’s like to be manipulated by a cult leader to someone whose entire experience of religion consists exclusively of Sunday trips to church? Or what it’s like to watch your parents dragged into a court-room handcuffed to prison trustees to someone who grew up in a conventional family environment? You can’t. But horror (and, to a lesser extent, sci-fi/fantasy) allows me to share my subjective experience of the world in a way that’s understandable to people with more conventional backgrounds. When Permuted Press bought my novel The Book of Ashes in May of last year, they asked if I had any other novels. I told them about my short story “Kezzie of Babylon” and said I could develop it into a zombie novel because Permuted likes those. And now here we are.

IMG_0380Zombie fiction has had quite a lot of staying power in the past ten years; even when a lot of people were saying the trend was dead, true to its spirit, it continues to shamble on good naturedly, from The Walking Dead to World War Z, from Jonathon Maberry to Joe McKinney and many more. Where do you see this trend/genre in ten years?

That’s hard to say, Martin. Honestly, I never expected the zombie craze to outlast one season of The Walking Dead. No here we are – what? Five? Six seasons in? There’s a whole raft of spin-offs TV, games, stories, novels, comics, the cultural phenomenon of zombie “walks” … Who could have predicted that surge in popularity? Not I.

For what it’s worth, my prediction. Ten years from now, the hot topic for PC/social justice warrior types will be zombie rights. The fact that zombies don’t exist won’t bother them. After all, neither does social justice. It’s a myth, like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. Ivory tower stuff. Like Dylan said: “This world is ruled by violence / but I guess that’s better left unsaid.”

Kezzie Of Babylon is a zombie, apocalyptic, horror novel, featuring a cast of characters with interesting histories, such as Zack, who ends up picking up a mysterious package for the local drug kingpin. Meanwhile, he tracks the footsteps of a girl he’s never met, but whose diary he’s been reading for years. This leads him to a ragtag fringe group living in a woodland, when all hell breaks loose. There, we meet Kezzie herself. At first glance, she’s a religious psychopath, but is also something much more than what she appears.

Can you share with us how the idea for Kezzie Of Babylon came about?

To return to what I said earlier: horror allows me to share my subjective experience of the world in a way that’s understandable to people from more mainstream backgrounds. Both as a young adult and middle-aged PI, I’ve come into a LOT of contact with the criminal element. Writing about druggies and assorted low-lifes is absurdly easy for me. The “Kezzie” short story was intended to be a romp, nothing more — a zombie shoot-em-up on a grow-op with an interesting character in Kezzie. With the novel, I went deeper, trying to offer an interesting REASON for the zombie outbreak (an influx of bad street drugs) and an answer as to how bikers and other marginal types might cope during a zombie apocalypse. Better than most, I suspect, simply because they’re accustomed to living high-risk lifestyles.

Kezzie herself is my first stab at writing a true “cult” leader and I modeled her on David Koresh. The cult experience is something I first addressed in ECHO and will continue to address going forward. It’s fundamental to my life. I’m good friends with Gina Catena, who works with cult survivors and writes about cult recovery issues. We’re both involved in the life-long process of PTSD and cult recovery. So writing this kind of stuff is therapeutic for me.

Did you do any research, any prep work for Kezzie Of Babylon that might be of interest?

Living it. I only write about things I’ve experienced personally. The old Chinese curse applies here: “May you live in interesting times”. My life has certainly been interesting. And quite often upsetting. I’m turning that to my advantage and putting all those bad experiences to work for me. It’s only in the past 3 years or so that I’ve moved beyond the very real consequences of things “people did to me” and began “doing unto others”. Like it says in the book: “Do unto others before they can do unto you”. I choose to inflict my stories on the world.

Scenes in Kezzie Of Babylon often reminded me of certain characters I’d run into in real life. Are you willing to talk about how observation informs your work, or the juxtaposition of reality in a fictional work?

I’m a total outsider. I’m one of those guys who won’t accept your invitation for drinks or dinner, doesn’t attend parties or social events like weddings or baptisms, doesn’t participate in group activities of any kind anymore (I trained in judo and BJJ for years but cut that cord in 2013). I live alone, I work more or less alone in my day-job and spend my days off at home with the door locked and the curtains drawn, hip-deep in my latest WIP. What does this leave?

Observation. I’m fascinated by the behavior of the human animal. One of my heroes is Dr. Jane Goodall, whose work I first encountered via National Geographic as a child. I take the same approach to human society she did with her chimps: approach stealthily, sit quietly and observe. Remember: I’m a trained investigator. I can size you up in three seconds flat — how you dress and cut your hair, whether you’re right or left handed, the way you walk, a smoker or non-smoker, the condition of your shoes … all these things tell a story. In my daily life, I’m constantly snapping pictures of people and engaging in analysis. It’s a habit I cultivated as a child in abusive family and cult environments. It was a prerequisite for survival. It kept me alive — literally. It’s a compulsive, learned behavior that I’ll never stop engaging in.

So. I observe. I extrapolate. I write.

Do you feel you learned anything about publishing your second novel you didn’t learn with your first?

Mostly, I learned what it was like to have a supportive publisher for a change. Permuted has taken a pounding in the public eye of late, but they’re a great environment. Very innovative and forward-thinking. And I have a great family of writers around me, many of whom are as deeply disturbed as myself. It’s such a relief to be able to shoot an e-mail off to a guy like Jeremiah Israel or Bill Vitka and say something like: “Hey guys! Break out the box-cutters and the chloroform! Time to find some some organ donors!” I love those guys. They get me.

Are you working on another project we can expect to see in the near future, or something you’re excited about?

Permuted is scheduled to publish my next novel in December of this year. The Book of Ashes takes place after a plague has more or less destroyed civilization, turning Vancouver Island into a feudal wasteland ruled by the Hell’s Angels. Cory O’Neal is a retired school-teacher who spends his days in a trailer on the edge of the forest, scavenging firewood, hunting for food and ducking attacks by gangs of marauding cannibals. In the evenings he composes a history of the plague. But what begins as a history soon begins to resemble a confession. His sole indiscretion as a teacher, forming a special bond with a troubled female student, ended his career. It may also end Mankind.

My ongoing major project is the republication of Echo and, afterwards, its four sequels: Echo Tribe, Echo Quest, Echo War and Echo Lord. This quintet is my life’ s work — a sci-fi epic that examines the religious experience from the point-of-view of the five principle figures of any faith: the prophet, the leader, the visionary, the warrior and the heretic. Permuted will republish Echo in 2016.

How can we keep up with you?

Catch me online at www.jamiescribbles.com

We thank Jamie Mason for taking the time to answer our questions, and Kezzie of Babylon is available from Permuted Press and Amazon.

Jamie Mason is a Canadian writer of dark fiction whose stories have appeared in On Spec, Abyss & Apex, White Cat and the Canadian Science Fiction Review. His zombie novel KEZZIE OF BABYLON was published by Permuted Press in March of this year. He lives on Vancouver Island. Learn more at www.jamiescribbles.com

Interview with Jamie Mason, author of Kezzie of Babylon

Death’s Realm Mini-Interview: Jay Caselberg

Everyone, welcome Jay Caselberg to the blog. I’m featuring fellow contributors to Death’s Realm, of Grey Matter Press, with a short mini-interview to learn more about the talent involved, a preview of what we can expect from their story, and speculate on what lies ahead in the great beyond.

deaths_realm_anthology_cover_front
Tell us about your background, who you are, and how you came to the writing life.

Me, I’m Australian, though I have lived in Europe for a number of years now, traveling around for day job related stuff. I spent time growing up in various countries as well. Despite all that, I still retain an essential component of the Australian psyche, or so I believe, and it tends to seep through into the fiction. Embedded in the Australian subconscious is the sense of removal, of separation from the rest of the world, because, you know, from most places, it is a long long way away. Anyway, I always thought I’d turn out to be a scribbler and I read and wrote as I was growing up. Then, at an impressionable age, I stumbled across a book on how to write a novel. Within those pages was a piece of the worst advice I have ever heard: you cannot write a book till you are over forty because you don’t have the life experience to make it real. What rubbish. Anyway, taking that to heart, it caused me to stumble. Much later, I happened across on online forum that acted as a kind of virtual critique group and suddenly, it was as if the world had opened up. I’d had no dealings with other aspirants until that stage and about then, I realised that I was probably good enough. I wrote a few stories, sent them out and the first one I sent out, a little science fiction tale with a pretty dark edge sold within a couple of months.

Although I write and have written novels, science fiction, horror, literary and even YA fantasy most of my work is short fiction and generally, it tends to be what I would characterise as soft horror, more the psychological, but none the less dark for that. Literature, ultimately, is about the human condition, and the inside of people’s heads is often a dark and squirmy place. I like playing with that.

Gray Matter Press has released an anthology, Death’s Realm, featuring your work, “Penumbra.” Give us a preview of your short story without giving away too much.

The concept for “Penumbra” is what happens to someone who is deeply, madly in love, and they die. What efforts would one go to to keep that bond alive even though you may not be.

The premise behind Death’s Realm is what happens after death. If there is a great beyond, what do you imagine it to be?

I’m not a great believer in a great beyond per se. I have no vision of heaven or hell. I do believe that there is something there. I have seen and experienced too many things to accept that there is simply nothing, things that defy normal everyday explanation. Despite that, I am not going to sign up to any orthodox set of rationalisations that make the less certain feel more certain. For me, it’s not about faith or anything else. Sure, there’s something going on there. You just need to be able to live with it.

We thank Jay Caselberg for coming by to share his thoughts. He’s got a web page here, and twitter account you can stalk him at here.

Death’s Realm Mini-Interview: Jay Caselberg

Death’s Realm Mini-Interview: Matthew Pegg

Everyone, welcome Matthew Pegg to the blog. I’m featuring fellow contributors to Death’s Realm, of Grey Matter Press, with a short mini-interview to learn more about the talent involved, a preview of what we can expect from their story, and speculate on what lies ahead in the great beyond.

deaths_realm_anthology_cover_front
Tell us about your background, who you are, and how you came to the writing life.

I grew up in Staffordshire in England. We lived in an old farmhouse that had a cellar that filled up with water every so often, open fireplaces, no central heating and windows that got covered with ice on the inside in winter. My mother insisted that there was a ghost on the top landing. She never saw anything but she said she could sometimes smell a sweaty smell. It was probably just the drains, or our unwashed socks. I wrote a lot of stories when I was in primary school. I particularly remember writing an alternate version of ‘The Snow Queen’, which had some ideas and characters that I intend to reuse at some point. Then in secondary school I got put off writing fiction by my English teacher, who thought writing stories was kids stuff. How he got the job I don’t know.

I went to drama school and worked as an actor for a few years until I realised I wasn’t great at it and liked having an overview of a story rather than being responsible for just one character. So then I started writing plays.

I’ve written some odd stuff for theatre: a one man version of Twelfth Night, a play designed to be performed during a medieval banquet, an adaptation of the film ‘Onibaba’, a puppet show, street theatre, plays for young people to watch, plays for young people to perform and a version of Rumpelstiltskin that was rather too influenced by ‘Beetlejuice’. I also adapted M.R. James’s story ‘Lost Hearts’ for the stage and then as a short film. Writing for theatre has given me some useful skills: creating dialogue, developing dramatic tension and an awareness of structure but it’s very different from writing prose. A play is probably closer to sheet music than it is to a novel: it’s a set of instructions for actors, designer and director and an audience experience it collectively rather than in a one to one fashion.

I came to writing fiction quite late. I’d always wanted to do it, but I wasn’t sure whether I had the basic skills. Eventually I did an MA in Creative Writing which I completed in 2012. My fiction tutor was the greatly missed author Graham Joyce, who was really enthusiastic about the stuff I was writing. I came out of the course thinking, “Yes, I can do this after all!” It taught me a lot and gave me a big confidence boost. Since then I’ve completed a novel and I’ve been submitting short pieces to various publications.

Gray Matter Press has released an anthology, Death’s Realm, featuring your work, “March Hays.” Give us a preview of your short story without giving away too much.
Sam Meacham is injured during WW2 and sent to March Hays, a stately home requisitioned as a hospital for servicemen. One of the nurses Lily, is the daughter of the house who Sam met when he was a child. As Sam recuperates he experiences some strange and disturbing events in the library of the house, but isn’t sure if they are real or just a side effect of his injuries. He also becomes increasingly attached to Lily and determined to protect her from her monstrous husband Edward, who seems to be a threat to her life.

The premise behind Death’s Realm is what happens after death. If there is a great beyond, what do you imagine it to be?

I’ll be very surprised if there is anything, but then I like surprises! I suspect if there is anything it will be beyond the power of our imaginations to comprehend. Or it might be a bit like Milton Keynes.

We thank Matthew Pegg for coming by to share his thoughts. You can keep up with him at his website, here.

Death’s Realm Mini-Interview: Matthew Pegg