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.
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.
The woman was in the lead, two steps ahead of the man. She was also half a head taller than he was, with a narrow, severe sort of face, blond hair pulled back into a tight ponytail behind her head. She looked around at us rather imperiously, her mouth pressed into a thin line. “Who are you people?” she asked. Her voice was clipped and slightly nasal. And her tone immediately set my teeth on edge. “Who wants to know?” I replied, shifting my Winchester to the crook of my arm as I folded my arms in front of me. I could see the badge on her belt and the big yellow letters “FBI” on her blue windbreaker. But her attitude put my back up, especially coming after what we’d just done. “I’m Special Agent Trudeau, and this is Special Agent Miller,” she replied, in the same clipped, arrogant tone of voice. “Now, tell me who you are.” “Lady, unless you’ve got a warrant, which the good police chief over there might object to, given what just happened, I suggest you get a lot more polite in the next five seconds, or you can pound sand,” I told her.
Had something else in mind for this post, but got too busy. So here’s a bit of a look at the work in progress. Chapter 1 Crossing the police line was like stepping into a sauna. It had been warm enough out on the street; it was the middle of August, after all. But Spokane was relatively dry and arid. This felt like we’d just walked into a swamp in the middle of Mississippi. In August. There was also a heavy scent in the air. It wasn’t quite incense, and it wasn’t quite burned blood, though there was a hint of that; something metallic. It was something I’d smelled before, and didn’t care to smell again. Cloying, sickening, and absolutely wrong. I had felt like we were being watched before we even set foot across the police line and onto the yard in front of the spruced-up old neo-Victorian house. And not necessarily by the swarms of cops, firefighters, EMS personnel, reporters, cameramen, and curious neighbors who were gathered on the street. There was someone, or something, up in that house, and it didn’t want us there. That was abundantly clear as soon as Eryn, Kolya, and I stepped
The Canyon of the Lost, the new novelette in the Jed Horn series, is now available for pre-order on Kindle (Kindle only, for now. It might get folded into a later edition of one of the paperbacks.). If you’re hoping for the further adventures of Jed, Eryn, and Frank Tall Bear, and more of the aftermath of the Walker’s rampage, I’m afraid that’s not here. This story takes place between Nightmares and A Silver Cross and a Winchester, when Jed is still learning the ropes from Dan Weatherby. From the book description: All too often, it starts with a missing kid. It has been a year since Jed Horn and Dan Weatherby confronted Professor Ashton and destroyed his homunculus. They’ve been busy in the meantime, roving the Intermountain West, fighting monsters and and the demonic, protecting people as best they can from the powers of the Otherworld and the Abyss. They are between jobs in Washington State when they catch wind of a missing kid in the mountains. There is enough weird about the situation that it sounds like their kind of work, so they volunteer to help out. As the hunt for the missing child progresses, it turns into