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
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.
Chapter 3 It was a long drive back to Ray’s place, and we were tired. Fighting a demonic manifestation in a Bed and Breakfast can really take it out of you. We stopped several times to rest along the way. Eryn and I could switch off driving, but Kolya and Father Ignacio didn’t have that luxury. At least Father Ignacio could go a lot farther on a single tank of gas, riding that Harley of his. Paul wasn’t helping much; according to Kolya, he was spending most of the drive sleeping, when he wasn’t staring blankly out the window. None of us necessarily blamed him; the first brush with the powers of the Abyss can be pretty traumatic. He’d need time. It was well after dark by the time we pulled in. Ray’s house, a long, one-story, hewn-log building that he’d built himself, was dark, at least at first. As the gravel crunched under our wheels, a light flickered to life in the window. Either Magnus had heard us coming and woken Ray up, or he’d somehow known we’d be pulling in right at that moment.
I know, I was going to blog more. Twice a week or so, I said. Well, it’s been busy, but here’s a quick rundown as to why. I had to take a few days “operational pause” on Lex Talionis to do some re-thinking. As originally outlined, the final chapters were a bit too episodic, as in, “This happens, and then this happens, and then this happens.” Good storytelling ties things together a bit more. It should be more along the lines of, “This happens, which leads to this happening, so then this happens, but then…” The new direction should tighten things up and get it more into the latter model. Still a lot to do; probably 20,000-30,000 words left, which will put it as the longest Praetorian story to date, a title presently held by Hunting in the Shadows, at 148.5k. Audiobook production on Kill Yuan is about half done, and it’s coming along well. That’s bitten into writing time a little, as well, as I’ve got to review each chapter as Cody finishes and uploads it. But it’s solid. He’s doing a great job. Somewhere in there, the idea that led to the “New Ideas” post down below began
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
I’ve had a couple of requests for a recommended reading list, largely for stuff similar to the Praetorian series. I’ve also been asked about stuff similar to the Jed Horn series, just not as often (since Jed seems to have a slightly smaller following, that shouldn’t be surprising). So, after a little thinking (and a little turning around to stare at the bookcases behind my desk), I’ve got a few recommended reads, fiction and non-fiction, that might fill the bill.
They didn’t lead us to the sheriff’s department, as I’d halfway been expecting. Instead, we headed back toward the interstate, and pulled off in the truck stop at the exit. Craig parked the cruiser back by the semis, then got out and waited. I looked over at Eryn, shrugged, and got out to go join him. He was leaning against the hood of the cruiser, his arms crossed in front of him. “What do you know about Chrystal Meek?” he asked as I walked up to him. I shook my head. “Bupkis,” I told him. “She’s a name that Blake gave us to find if we couldn’t meet up with him. That’s all we know.” Craig frowned, looking down at the asphalt as if to gather his thoughts. “Chrystal’s…well, she’s been through a lot. I’d almost say she’s the one decent person in that blight of a town. A lot of people have tried to get her to leave, but she’s always been the type to say that it’s her home, that she can’t leave, you know? She’s stayed for her mom. Lord knows why. Her mom’s an abusive addict, nobody knows who her dad was, and she’s had a