“Dumb John” Published in Print

One of my dark fantasy stories is now available in the Indigo Mosaic Publishing anthology Mytherium: Tales of Mythical and Magical Creatures. It’s available at amazon.com, as well as here.

Anyway, here is a short preview of Dumb John:

***

The moon lingered above the horizon like a grim fingernail. Its horns looked too small to do any real harm, yet its presence pushed against the mind, whispering and reminding.

Dumb John hunched into the coat the widow Jenner had given him for digging Martin’s grave. The harvest wind bit cold, and though John couldn’t see far in the dark, he could hear the rattle of dead leaves on the path. He should have been done hedging the old graveyard and back to St.Anne’s before sundown, but he’d gotten distracted by a family of squirrels. Now he had to round the bluff and cross the old mill bridge at night.

He knew what that meant, what came next.

John clenched the shaft of his sickle and squinted up at the bluff. The villagers said it was haunted, but only John knew the truth of that. Yet he saw no unclean spirits up there, and no vapors or wisps o’ night, only the bare-fingered trees as they stroked the belly of the sky. But that didn’t mean nothing was there. He licked his lips. No, it did not.

He shuddered and kept moving, his hands tightening and loosening on his sickle.

As always when the moon was new, John wondered if it would be tonight. The old priest had promised, and John figured it would happen on an evening like this, chill and black, with the hint of dead things on the wind.

“A turn deserves a turn,” the old priest had said from his deathbed all those years before. “One for the other, as before. Even you can see that, can’t you John? I’ll rise, my son, I will. They won’t hurt you anymore, and I won’t never leave you. You hear me? Never.”

 So John had helped. He had taken the knife and done what was asked, even when the old priest lost his courage and screamed for him to stop. John had wept, but he’d finished the task. He’d thrown the candles into the fire, cleaned up the blood, and sunk the body in the mill pond. He’d kept his word to the old priest. But that man had been no priest at all. No true priest would have bid John do such blasphemy. No true priest would want to cheat God and live forever. John had learned that from Father Mark.

John loved Father Mark.

John’s eye drifted back up to the bluff as he trudged along. The moan of the wind among the birches sent shivers up his spine, and he kissed his crucifix. He tried to say, “Mary protect me,” but only a groan came out. The knot of lips that fronted his jaw allowed him nothing more.

Finally John rounded the bluff and stumbled to a halt. Before him lay Tom’s mill and pond. It belonged to Owen and Annie now, but John still thought of it as Tom’s. The stream coiled through the valley like a whispering serpent, and beside the bridge stood the dam and its thin black waterwheel.

Beyond that lay the mill pond…

***

Go here for more info.

 

Cover Art Achieved

So last summer I wrote a horror story set in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan about a guy whose fingers turn into bloodthirsty worms. It’s one of my favorite stories that I have written, and it got accepted by a magazine called Big Pulp (my issue comes out in winter 2012).

Today I saw that art inspired by my story was chosen to grace the cover. Click on the picture to read what the artist, Ken Knudtsen, has to say about how hard it is to draw worms…

Novel Submitted!

 

Five years after beginning to write a novel, I finally sent it off to a publisher tonight.

Why in the world did it take so long, you ask? I actually had the thing written two and a half years ago, but then I spent six months or so editing it. By the end of that process I had this dim realization that it might be a good idea to get some formal training in writing.

So I took the next year off to take some very excellent writing classes. I learned a lot, including that my previous writing skills left something to be desired (okay, a lot of somethings).

I took the year off after that to focus on writing short stories and getting some published.

That brings us to this year. I started editing again some months ago, and it took far longer to complete than I had guessed. After getting used to a short story length, it was somewhat mind-boggling to return to the novel length. And then there was this pesky business of having to rewrite almost every single line, because dang, whoever wrote this rag really could have used some writing classes…

To give you an idea of what this process was like, the story went from 122,000 words to 112,000 words, all without removing any plot or character elements. I even added some stuff. Those ten thousand words got chopped out one sentence at a time as I streamlined, tightened, and generally embettered (*new word alert*) it.

So anyway, I’m relieved to finally have it “out there.” I’m actually about a fifth of the way though the sequel, so hopefully I can make some good progress by the time I hear back on my submission.

Bottom Line: I believe in this story again, love it, and hope that someone else will too.

So how about you? Do you have any slow writing stories?

Land of the Beast

 

My flash fiction story “Land of the Beast” came out today in issue 18 at NewMyths.com.

This story began as a project in a creative writing class last year, and evolved into its present form. The editor of this ezine said he found it “deeply unsettling,” and I think that sums it up pretty well. If you could use some unsettling, give it a read.

Photo: by Darryl Smith, freelance photographer