New Free Serial Novel – Blood and Brimstone

Well, gang sometimes you gotta know when to admit defeat. I’ve learned over the last year that I don’t yet have the reach, or the temperament to run a Patreon. But the good news is that the content I was posting there is now going to be available here for free! You can still donate to me if you’d like, but it’s not a requirement.

The entry that follows is the prologue to Blood and Brimstone, an apocryphal continuation of the story begun in my debut novel, Flesh and Fire. I would strongly encourage familiarity with the material before you embark on reading this tale. Otherwise, you may be a bit lost. Flesh and Fire is available on Indie Bound, Amazon, and wherever else books are sold, as part of a flip book with a zombie novella by Jonathan Maberry. Now, without further ado, I’m happy to present the opening chapter of Blood and Brimstone, entitled “Land of Shades.”

———-

Hell wasn’t so bad before the Christians came down. We didn’t even call it Hell back then. Of course, it was no Heaven (assuming there is a Heaven, and my guess is, if the zealots are here, there isn’t). It was simply the Place of the Dead, the Land of Shades. Not so different from the Land of the Living, really, just darker, a bit grayer. It was them, in wrath borne out of disappointment, who brought the fire, and made everything burn. Their philosophy: if they can’t have their promised salvation, then all must suffer.

I suppose I should introduce myself. My name is Windom. I’m one of the Devil’s sons. He has many children. Not for the reasons you may expect. He harbors no delusions of undoing God’s creation. He just likes to fuck. Fuck, and gamble, I’m told. I’ve never actually met him. He’s not what you’d call a present father.

But that’s all right. I’m provided for. There are homes across the world, run by a select few for the sole purpose of sheltering Satan’s children. The place I grew up is right outside Texarkana, smack dab in the middle of the Bible Belt. Imagine that. A bunch of demon hybrids coming of age among truck stop churches and pornographic megastores. Oddly fitting, I think.

Well, anyway, where was I? Oh, yes. How the Christians ruined Hell.

I suppose I should start at the beginning. This is no epic, so in media res is out of the question.

It all started with a doomsday preacher who was born of a virgin a little over two thousand years ago. His primary message, like those spoken by other prophets of doom, was double-sided. The end was nigh, and there would be a great day of reckoning, but for a select few, salvation was promised. Now, this fella was unlike others of his kind in that his message really caught on. Matter of fact, it still resonates with a great number of living souls, and I kind of understand why. It’s hopeful. People like hope. It’s the most powerful drug there is, and one of the few legal ones. Some of you reading this might even be on this particular strain of hope. I don’t fault you for it. Somewhere along the chain of evolution, guilt and shame entered into the equation. You, as a species, started feeling bad about doing what came natural. Well, according to this doomsday preacher, all your perceived wrongdoings could be taken away, you just had to (get this) believe that they would be taken away, and just like that: there you went into the arms of the Lord.

Unfortunately for this fella, the religious establishment didn’t much care for his message of forgiveness. For them, only strict adherence to religious law (which, if you think about it hard enough you’ll see, keeps them in control of your life) is the only way to salvation. What he was preaching, well, that could really screw with the power dynamic. So, they had him killed. Crucified. Fucking nasty, even for the ancients.

When he died, he came here. Crossed the Ruin into darkness just like everybody else. I guess he was disappointed.

Now, I don’t know if he was the Son of God, but somehow he brought fire to this place, and this fire was not like the fire in the living world. These flames never went out, and as more of his followers came down, they joined him in torching everything, and if a shade got caught in one of these fires, they either suffered or turned into a fucking demon.

That’s what happened to my father. Some say that in life he was a great warrior. Others say he was a hedonist. I imagine he was a little of both. Like I said, I don’t know all that much about him. There’s a lot I don’t know, I reckon. Relatively, I’m not very old. Something like seventy is my guess. I can’t be a hundred percent sure, because, well, after my fortieth, I just stopped aging altogether. Since I stopped aging, I stopped counting, but I think my guess is accurate.

So, that’s that. That’s how Hell became, well, Hell. At least that’s how it’s been relayed to me by the old timers. I’m telling you all this so that you’ll have context for the tale I’m about to tell.

It begins with a girl, and no, it isn’t that sort of story, though she was very pretty. Sweet, too, I suppose, but also, maybe just a tad too curious. Of course, I can’t blame her. Given how her story begins, well, let’s just say if the same thing happened to me, I’d want answers, assuming I didn’t know what I know: answers only exist to raise further questions. Such is our fate: to die wondering.

But I’m not here to share a philosophy. I only wish to tell you a story. After all, stories birth our dreams, and our dreams make the fire bearable.

Surrogate – Free Flash Fiction

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m taking a Creative Writing class this semester. The first project was to write a piece of flash fiction (the professor calls it sudden fiction). My story was rather well-received, so I figured I’d share it with all of you. It’s more on the literary side, I suppose, but I think it’s pretty good. It’s called “Surrogate.”


She waited almost three years to tell me the child wasn’t mine. I don’t know what made this moment the right moment to tell me, but she laid it out on a typical night. We were in bed, the lights still on. We had just put the little one down for night-night, and I was just about to open my fresh copy of Franzen’s latest doorstop of a novel. She didn’t cry then, but maybe she had run out of tears. I didn’t cry either. I’ve been told so often that I shouldn’t that at moments when maybe I should, I can’t.

“So, whose is it?” I asked. She shook her head. “I have a right to know.” She remained silent. “I’m not gonna hurt the guy. That’s not who I am. You know this.”

“It’s Drew’s.”

“Drew who? The kid? Your intern?” She nodded “I thought he didn’t like women.”

“He was conflicted,” she said. “And so was I.”

She gave no more details, but I guessed it had something to do with almost eighteen months of trying to conceive, dozens of tests, and one miscarriage, which halted our intimacy indefinitely.

I found his address and drove to confront him the next day. He lived in an apartment on the East Side. I knocked until he answered. When the door opened, we just stared at each other. Damn near thirty seconds went by. I opened my mouth to tell him that I knew, that I wasn’t mad at him, that I’d raised his child as my own and therefore believed I had certain rights, but instead of saying any of that, I reached for the sides of his face and pulled him in for a kiss.

The Kids Are All Right

I just had my short story, “Long Night at Jade’s Diner,” critiqued by my classmates, most of whom are 12-15 years younger than me. While I took this Creative Writing class with an open mind, I had no idea how these kids would react to my story. After all, it’s very violent. At nearly 7,000 words, it’s on the long side for a short story. It’s written like a faux screenplay (something I aped from Haruki Murakami’s After Dark). And it ends (and begins) rather ambiguously.

My classmates liked the story. My professor seemed to really like the story. However, this blog isn’t about that. Instead, I want to talk about some of the criticism leveled at the piece.

First, there were a few adverbs that didn’t need to be there. Some instances of “show-don’t-tell.” You know, basic early draft mistakes we all make.

Some were taken back by the ultra-violence. Now, let’s be clear: they weren’t #triggered. They, rightfully, pointed out that given the story’s more literary bent, the violence was very jarring to read. The professor disagreed, but I kind of agree with the kids on this one. The piece will likely benefit from reeling in the violence, making it less over-the-top. While gore has its place (and God knows I’ve written plenty of blood and guts stories), this particular tale doesn’t need it.

Two women called me out for the omniscient narrator describing the breasts of two female characters. If I’d been writing from the point-of-view of a character who has a fixation, the lingering might have been called-for. In this case, it wasn’t.

I’m glad they called me out for it.

When you’ve been writing as long as I have, I think it’s rather easy to get set in your ways. Weirdly enough, the professor told me early on that given my publication history, I wouldn’t likely learn anything from this class and the students who, he believes, are less far along in their writing journeys than me. But he was wrong, and I’m glad he was.

I believe you can, and should, always try to learn at every stage of your career. Like programmers who refuse to learn new software or engineers who steer clear of new equipment, the writer who stops honing his craft, regardless of their level of success, will become obsolete.

I don’t intend for that to happen until I die.

Keep on Keeping On

I’m not gonna lie, gang. 2019 has gotten off to a rocky start. It’s been tremendously hard to keep it together. There have been some family issues that I can’t share here. The death of my brother’s dog. And most recently the implosion of a writing community that I hold dear.

Too many people have weighed in on that last bit, so I don’t really feel the need to add anything (though I’m sure, like most things in my life, parts of it will bleed into my fiction). All I’ll say here is that it’s been a difficult few weeks, full of decisions I didn’t want to face. I watched people I love say absolutely loathsome things on Facebook (I’m not really on Facebook, but I do lurk every once in a while). I’ve seen friends treated unfairly. I’ve seen people who aren’t even involved in the scene speaking out to make themselves look good. I’ve witnessed people use the suffering of others to sell more books. I’ve seen outright lies held up as truth and attempts to reveal facts branded as “mansplaining.”

So, yeah. It’s really sucked this week. Now for something completely different.

We’ve added a new guppy to the fish tank. His name is Bruce.

The cover of Saint Sadist continues to generate buzz.

I got my author copies of We are the Accused. Reviewers have gotten their copies as well. The book even got its first review from Ian Muller (a bright up-and-comer in his own right). He calls We are the Accused “A bleak, ultra-violent take on small town horror that will appeal to both fans of Peter Straub and splatterpunk. “

The Crossroad Press edition of Engines of Ruin also seems to be doing well. In fact, it’s ranked higher in its category than pretty much anything else I’ve put out before. Dunno what that actually means, to be honest, but it sounds good.

I’ve also got 65% of Extinction Peak, my gory dinosaur novel, finished.

So, all in all, it has been rocky. But I’m moving forward.

Sometimes I think moving forward in the face of awful things is strength. Other times I think it’s foolish and cruel. I doubt I’ll ever really know either way. What do you think?

The Hustle Never Sleeps

First week of school is in the books. As expected, I’m already tightly wound with stress and constantly on edge, but hey, at least there haven’t been any nightmares. It’s important to me that I do well in school, especially given that it’s my last semester as an undergrad. On top of that, I want to be a good father and husband. And I want to keep writing. I’m managing, so far, but Christ, I’m tense.

In my American Romanticism class, we started covering Self-Reliance, which I think I’ve read before, but I think it’s important to revisit texts as one matures, especially pieces like Emerson’s, which are considered crucial. A cool thing I picked up on this time around that I didn’t remember learning before: Romantics (particularly the transcendentalists) believed that we shared one soul. While many ideas espoused by Emerson are prevalent in American society, such a concept as the Over-soul, seems a lot more Eastern or New Age.

Another highlight of my week back at college was my exposure to the different schools of literary criticism. It was cool defining all these different perspectives, and really reinforced for me the idea that so much, if not everything, is subjective. Maybe that’s just my confirmation bias, but I don’t know. Getting an overview of everything from New Criticism to Feminist Criticism to Biographical and Psychological Criticism, among others, got me thinking about how silly I find it whenever someone gets red-in-the-face when arguing their viewpoint, potentially alienating loved ones. To quote Patton Oswalt, “It’s all chaos; be kind.”

Lastly (on the school front, anyway) I have to share this video that I watched in my Lifespan class, only because it’s super cute and kind of funny.

Last night, my partner and I went to see Iliza the Paramount in downtown Austin. I’ve watched all of her specials, but that set last night was the best I’ve seen from her. She made a wrestling joke AND a Ray Bradbury reference all within the span of ten minutes. Only a mind like hers would think to do such a thing. It made me happy.

In less happy news, the kiddo is sick and gave us quite a scare driving home after the show. Everything is fine, but things looked bad for a bit.

Anyway, not much else to report. I’ve got to get back to work on Extinction Peak, my dinosaur apocalypse novel. I think blogs will be a bit more sporadic. Twice a week. Maybe three times. Parenting, school, and writing will keep me busy.

If you like these blogs and want to support me, the best way to do this is by buying a book. I also have a Patreon where you can have access to exclusive content. Every bit helps.

Dark Dreamer

More nightmares last night. Some of them were so horrific, I’m not comfortable sharing them here despite this blog evolving into a dream journal of sorts. Let’s just say I more or less lived out scenes from my latest novel We Are the Accused. And yes, I’m linking to the book, because I’m broke and need the money.

I reached the midpoint of my dinosaur apocalypse novel today. I punctuated the end of the book’s first half with the sort of scene that made me uncomfortable to write. Since I write horror, I guess that means I’m doing my job.

School starts tomorrow. I hope the nightmares subside, mainly because I’m really going to need the sleep. I see my therapist on Wednesday (for financial reasons, I can only see her once a month). Hopefully, she can offer some insights, and maybe even some technique for dealing with these awful dreams.

I was talking to my pal Shane McKenzie about them. We entered a discussion about life’s balance, and how pleasant (though sometimes sad) my dreams were when my head was falling apart. Now that my waking life feels somewhat ordered and aimed towards a purpose, my dreams are more frightening than ever. Is this balance necessary? I don’t know. Smarter people than us probably have that answer.

Do you know? Sound off in the comments if you do!

Saint Sadist Cover Reveal

I’m delighted to show you the cover for my next book, Saint Sadist, which will debut this March from Grindhouse Press. This image is perfect for the book, given its content and themes, which is crazy considering the image existed prior to me writing the book. The art is by the incredible George Cotronis, who is one of my favorite cover artists in the game today. Check this shit out.


I’ll provide more updates as they come. In the meantime, don’t forget my newest book We Are the Accused is out now via Sinister Grin Press, or you can grab my collection Engines of Ruin via Crossroad Press if you’re more in the mood for short fiction.

Weekend was nice. Got a lot of writing done, made a little money, bought some pet fish, and started putting a new bookcase together. School starts on Tuesday. Updates may be a bit more sporadic after that, but I will try to keep up as best I can. I enjoy writing these blogs quite a bit, and I hope you enjoy reading them.