My Books and the Works that Influenced Them

This past summer, after watching Quentin Tarantino’s newest, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, I’ve been thinking a lot about people who influenced me. After all, Tarantino proudly wears his influences on his sleeves, and he’s certainly inspired me over the years. From the nonlinear narrative of Pulp Fiction to the insane midpoint twist in From Dusk Till Dawn, he taught me how to defy an audience’s expectations. He’s certainly defied mine, over and over.

But before this becomes a Tarantino love-fest, I want to get us to the meat of this blog. I want to talk about my individual works and the specific works that influenced them.

A few things to keep in mind. First, I will do this in chronological order of release, starting with Flesh and Fire. Next, I will exclude my collection Engines of Ruin, because I think that probably warrants its own post. Last, this is probably not comprehensive; some of my influences are bound to get overlooked, so apologies in advance.

Now, without further ado, let’s get into this.

Flesh and Fire was probably most obviously inspired by the show Supernatural. I love the Winchester boys, and the first five seasons are especially excellent (Season 7 is pretty tight, too, so don’t tap out after 5). However, a less obvious influence, though one that Brian Keene picked up on, was the novel Animals by John Skipp and Craig Spector. The way that book is paced, particularly in its first half, and the feelings of longing and loss the work depicts stuck with me in a way few books have. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend checking it out. There are some admittedly dated elements and the latter third of the book feels rushed, but those flaws are easy to overlook. It occupied a good amount of headspace while I was writing Flesh and Fire.

Mania, my novella about a cursed screenplay, is just one in a long tradition of cursed media horror stories. From Ringu to the plethora of stories featuring the Necronomicon, there is no shortage of this type of horror. Mania’s strongest influence though comes from the John Carpenter-directed episode of Masters of Horror titled “Cigarette Burns.” It’s plot concerning a film that, when screened, can drive an audience insane. In that respect, it almost plays like an epilogue to his 1995 masterpiece In the Mouth of Madness. It certainly has it’s own surprises though, and it’s haunted Hollywood vibe was definitely something I wanted to pull from for this book.

Gods of the Dark Web remains my most extreme book. Lots of folks have bestowed this honor (?) on Saint Sadist, but there’s a scene in this book that I refuse to revisit. If you’ve read it, you know the one. The inspiration for the work as a whole came from listening to dark web stories on a YouTube channel called Dorset Ghost. He pulled the stories from various subreddits and creepypastas. The dark web as this doorway to the forbidden recalled the long tradition of cosmic horror and works like Frankenstein that depicted technology-based forays beyond the natural realm. I decided to tell this kind of story, but give it a contemporary face-lift.

We Are the Accused was the book where I pulled most from my life and the town where I grew up. It started as my attempt at a traditional small-town horror tale and then became something else. My jumping off point was Brian Keene’s A Gathering of Crows, but I also pulled from the Preacher comics and, again, Supernatural. My declining mental health was probably the biggest influence on the last third of this book. Not an excuse, just a fact.

I’ve made it no secret Saint Sadist is my favorite of my works. It also has the widest and perhaps strangest range of influences. When I came up with the idea, I very much wanted something between Martyrs and Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac. Stylistically, however, I looked to Faulkner, Milton, Henry Miller, Carson McCullers and Daphne du Maurier. Truthfully, I had no choice. I was reading all of these people while writing Saint Sadist. I wanted something stream-of-consciousness, Southern, and poetic. I even wrote the first draft entirely in verse. This project was the most fun for me to write and is still the most satisfying to revisit in spite of its disturbing content.


A couple of final things: 1. I’ll likely update this list next year when more of my books come out. 2. I’ve been posting daily content on my Patreon, so now is a great time to subscribe. A dollar gets you free stories, writing advice essays, and access to serial novels.

Friday, Mid-October, Mumps

It’s Friday morning on October 18th. This past Tuesday, my dentist told me the discomfort I feel on the right side of my mouth is a minor case of mumps. Despite getting an MMR vaccine as a child, I still managed to contract the virus. How weird is that? I wonder how it happened. I also wonder why my dentist didn’t find this alarming. She said I just had to take ibuprofen for the pain and get lots of rest until the virus ran its course.

Also, I have to watch my little one for symptoms. That’s a little more alarming. But she said mumps aren’t fatal so long as the symptoms are treated.

I also learned that my state has the highest rate of mumps diagnoses in the U.S. The more you know!

Anyway, in better news, I’m pleased to announce my cyberpunk cosmic horror crossover Gods of the Dark Web will get the audio book treatment by the ultra-talented Sean Duregger. You can expect this release sometime next year. I heard his audition for the book and got excited immediately. I’m glad my publisher at Crossroad Press felt the same way. There’s something powerful about hearing a gifted performer read your stuff. I hope all my writer friends get to experience it one day.

A couple crazy things happened related to Saint Sadist over the last few weeks. First, someone on Goodreads shelved it as Young Adult Fiction. Whatever you say. Wish it was making that YA money. The other thing that happened was less amusing. Someone on Reddit posted the opening chapter and went on to accuse me of child pornography. Others called me a misogynist, which is unfortunate.

While that latter development was just the work of some jerks on the internet, this sort of thing can really impact sales. I’m not a big Hollywood conglomerate. Your think-piece can do real damage to my livelihood. In fact it has. Sales have been in the toilet since, so thanks for that.

Of course, I have a day job, so you know, whatever. I will say one more thing though: pornography is written specifically with titillation in mind. I certainly wasn’t titillated while writing the scene in question. If you found it titillating, that may say more about you than it does me. Just a thought.

Anyway, it’s been an interesting year as far as “problematic” art goes. I’ve lots of thoughts, though I think my buddy Scout Tafoya summed it up nicely when he said (to paraphrase), if you can’t pan a work without turning into Tipper Gore, maybe you have no business being a critic.

I think there’s something to that. I also have complicated feelings on the matter. Like, do I really need to defend Quentin Tarantino from a think-piece he probably didn’t even read? Pretty sure he was a millionaire before some armchair activist took him to task for his portrayal of Bruce Lee. Pretty sure he’s still a millionaire now, some months after the fact. It’s when such outrage targets the working-class folk that I get irritated.

Saint Sadist did, however, get a wonderful review from Lisa over at Bibliophiliatemplum, which I genuinely appreciate. She’s been a hell of a supporter these last fourteen months. I’m glad to have her in my corner.

The last bit of information I’d like to relay is I’ve begun the process of revamping my Patreon page. For just a buck a month, you can expect new serial novels and stories exclusive to the platform, film and book analyses, and writing advice essays. Less fanciness, more focus. I’ll still post chapters of Blood and Brimstone here until it’s finished, but any other fiction I post to that page will not be published anywhere else for at least another year.

I know asking for money is taboo, even when you need it–indeed, I had a friend take shots at me on Twitter over this–but there it is. I will continue to post here, though you should expect these entries to be more informal and personal. For fiction and criticism, I’ve got to charge a little. The goal is to do two posts daily, one here and one there, but I’m sure it will more realistically become a weekly affair. We’ll see.

Anyway, sorry if some of this came out as a rant. I’ve been holding a lot in lately.

Hope the rest of you out there are okay. Keep on keeping on.