The weird odor in the air, that managed to smell like blood, rot, sulfur, and burned meat all at the same time, got more intense. My guts twisted and I tried not to inhale, but it seemed to reach into my nose anyway, forcing itself past my nasal passages and into my sinuses. A piercing, stabbing pain started to build behind my left eye. I heard Kolya grunt, and Eryn was panting, breathing shallowly. I spared a worried glance at her, to see that she still had her shotgun up, though she looked pale and sick. Granted, some of that might have been the green light of the candles on her already fair complexion, but whatever was happening in that room was not conducive to human life. As soon as they landed on the corpse pile, both figures went limp, though blood continued to pump from their savaged throats, coating the floor and the already bloody meat that had once been human beings. For a moment, all was still. Father Ignacio was continuing the Rite of Exorcism, but the three still-living cultists, or whatever they were, were still facing the pile of human remains, still croaking that blasphemous sound, though
I got my start as a storyteller in the dark, around campfires, up at Camp Fife in Washington State, about eighteen years ago, now. In a real way, the Jed Horn series is simply a continuation of that old tradition. There are two kinds of campfire story; the traditional ones that are passed down from fire to fire, for years, only changing in small details of the telling, flexible things that are simply the flavor the teller adds as he goes. The other kind are the ones I mostly told; the improvised scary stories. My first was pretty simple. A wisp in the woods, a curious Scout, and a game of cat-and-mouse underground with a monster that could change shape at will. It wasn’t the best spook story ever told, but I had already learned a few things from it. Between that one and a couple of the later ones, I developed a few rules.
From a piece by John C. Wright, from a few years ago: In none of the stories I just mentioned, even stories where the image of Our Lord in His suffering nailed to a cross is what drives back vampires, is any mentioned made of the Christ. Is is always an Old Testament sort of God ruling Heaven, or no one at all is in charge. So why in Heaven’s name is Heaven always so bland, unappealing, or evil in these spooky stories? I can see the logic of the artistic decisions behind these choices, honestly, I can. If I were writing these series, I would have (had only I been gifted enough to do it) done the same and for the same reason. It is the same question that George Orwell criticized in his review of THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH by CS Lewis. In the Manchester Evening News, 16 August 1945, Orwell writes that the evil scientists in the NICE [the National Institute of Coordinated Experiments, who are the Black Hats of the yarn] are actually evil magicians of a modern, materialist bent, in communion with ‘evil spirits.’ Orwell comments: Mr. Lewis appears to believe in the existence of such
As I mentioned in a previous post, I often do some reading in the target genre prior to and during working on a book. Now, I don’t really read a lot in the horror genre, with the exception of some Lovecraft, and Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International and Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, while involving monsters, aren’t really horror per se (though they are similar enough to what I write; there probably wouldn’t be a Jed Horn series without MHI). But in the workup for Older and Fouler Things, I finally picked up a book I’ve been meaning to read for a while, Residue, by Steve Diamond. Short version: it is phenomenal.
The Jed Horn series usually hasn’t involved a great deal of research (certainly nowhere near as much as either the Praetorian series or Kill Yuan). A little bit of looking around for cool big-bore rifles for the Witch Hunters to carry, perhaps, but for the most part, the series has been a somewhat more serious version of telling spook stories around the campfire at Scout Camp (and depriving young Scouts of many hours of sleep). But with Older and Fouler Things, I ran into the need to do some research. Since the story is a cross between The Exorcist, Dracula, and an old-fashioned dungeon crawl (with holy gunslingers and a biker priest/exorcist), there is a substantial part that happens underground, in an old, abandoned silver mine. Now, I’ve been in a hard-rock mine before, but it was many, many moons ago, so memory is hazy, at best. I had to do some digging. The best resource I found was a YouTube channel entitled “Exploring Abandoned Mines and Unusual Places.” I got a good idea of general layouts of old hard-rock mines, whether silver, copper, or even tin. I also found some stuff that kind of fit in with the Jed
Edit 2 is finished, and the preorder for the Kindle version of Older and Fouler Things is up! It will release on September 22. In the meantime, here’s a look at Chapter 4. Oh, and there’s a cover, too. Paul didn’t show up to breakfast, even though it was pretty late in the morning, and the sounds and smells of frying bacon and eggs were permeating the entire house. After the events of the previous night, that was a matter of some concern. I was about to go check on him, but Eryn put a hand on my arm. “Let me get him,” she said quietly. “If he’s as traumatized as I think he might be, a gentle voice will probably help him a little more. No offense, hon, but you’re better at the ‘shooting monsters’ part, and I’m better at the ‘comforting victims afterward’ part.” I just nodded, and stepped back. I was still hovering in the hallway, though, and I still had my .45 on my hip. The combination of Magnus’ reaction to him, the eerie activity at the witching hour that morning, and his silence and absence at breakfast were not serving to make me particularly comfortable.
Yes, I’m pretty deep into the shooter genre mode right now, having just passed 75,000 words on the first draft of Lex Talionis, but I’m going to digress for a little, to explore a thought I had while sitting in the “Death Is The Least Of Your Worries: Writing Lovecraftian Fiction” panel at LTUE. The panelists agreed (and so would I) that the nature of Lovecraft’s horror lay in the confrontation of unfathomable powers which barely noticed human beings. You might get squished along the way, but it was hit or miss as to whether the monster actually noticed you in the process. A vital part of the Cthulhu Mythos is mankind’s insignificance, and helplessness, in the face of the chaotic forces that rule the cosmos. You can try to fight Cthulhu, but it won’t end well for you. Granted, this is not entirely a hard and fast rule even within the (admittedly broad) confines of the Mythos itself. Brian Lumley’s Titus Crow bests a few eldritch abominations, and no less towering a figure than Conan the Cimmerian (Howard was a regular correspondent with Lovecraft) banished a few to whatever weird dimension they’d come from with a powerful stroke of
The Canyon of the Lost is out today! Check it out for a short adventure with Jed Horn and Dan Weatherby, about a year after Nightmares and some time before A Silver Cross and a Winchester.
With the first draft finished, and the pre-order out, here’s the final sample chapter: Chapter 5 I almost bowled Tall Bear over as I slammed out the door, my .45 already in my hand. I didn’t see any of the crowd carrying guns, but I was almost certain that somebody in there would be packing heat. There were certainly enough pipes, chains, and baseball bats in evidence. I didn’t stop at the door, either. I kept moving toward the truck; my rifle was in there. Sure, I had the 1911, but a pistol is what you use to fight your way to the long gun that you should have had the whole time. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Tall Bear and Craig, Craig’s quarrel with us apparently momentarily forgotten, rushing to the cruiser, where they must have had shotguns or patrol rifles.
It was a long drive to Coldwell, and we didn’t get started until late, so it was getting dark as we drove into town. Perhaps not the most auspicious beginning.
The town itself was set well back from the interstate, a good five miles down a winding county road. It had apparently been on the old highway, before the interstate, and was still hanging on, even though there wasn’t much to keep it alive. There weren’t even many farms in the vicinity, though a sign just as we turned off the interstate, lit up by our headlights, announced the presence of the Bar-13 ranch, about ten miles in the other direction.
Mostly it was five miles of rolling hills, sagebrush, bunchgrass, and the occasional stand of trees in the low ground where there was more water. The trees were already clumps of darkness against the grasslands that were already going gray in the growing twilight.
There weren’t a lot of lights on in Coldwell. There was a gas station on the edge of town. As I got a good look at it, I thought Ray had been rather overly charitable in calling it a “truck stop.” The pumps were ancient and rusty, and the building behind them was dingy, the paint peeling where it wasn’t dirty enough to turn from white to gray. It looked like the windows hadn’t been cleaned in a quarter century at least. At least the lights over the pumps were on, though the building itself was dark.
Only about three streetlights were lit down the main drag. They didn’t help. All they seemed to do was show the decay. Sidewalks were overgrown with weeds, and more were growing out of cracks in the street. Several of the old storefronts were boarded up, and one was visibly sagging toward the street. Another was burned out, black sweeps of soot staining the dingy paint as well as the buildings closest to it.
It wasn’t that late, so there were still a few people out and about, but most towns I’d been in still showed more activity. The place almost looked like a ghost town, with a few scavengers still going through the detritus. But it was still, as far as we knew, a living town, albeit for certain values of “living.”