Lovecraft in Ireland

My story ‘The Hound of K’n-yan’ will appear in A MYTHOS GRIMMLY, an anthology featuring mash ups of folklore and the H.P. Lovecraft mythos.

I have long been fascinated with Cúchulainn, the Irish hero from the Ulster Cycle. Cúchulainn was infamous for his ríastrad, a battle frenzy that would transform his body into a hideous fleshy mass that was invincible.  With that as my folk lore, I knew I had a tale ripe for the Mythos.

Cu Chulainn gets his first nickname by slaying the Hound.

Cu Chulainn gets his first nickname by slaying the Hound.

One of my favorite H.P. Lovecraft stories is ‘The Mound’, and as I researched Irish mythology I was stunned at how the two worlds overlapped. The original term for the faery, aos sí means ‘people of the mounds’!

A foundational book of Irish mythology is Lebor Gabála Érenn, ‘The Book of Invasions’. It describes the different waves of beings that settled Ireland, starting with the Titan-like Fomorians. They ruled until the Tuatha Dé Danann arrived in a dark cloud. They battled the Fomorians, intermarried, and eventually relocated in the bowels of the earth. Their new home was Ildathach, ‘the multi-colored place’; a perfect match for Lovecraft’s ‘blue-lit K’n-yan’.

mound

Of course, beneath K’n-yan there is red Yoth, and deeper still lay blackest N’kai. In the lightless cavern of N’kai the formless spawn of Tsathoggua dwell.   The elder races were known to conduct twisted biological experiments, grafting strange flesh onto their slaves.

Cúchulainn was no Disney character. He slew hundreds of men and women, friend and foe alike. He murdered his father-in-law and killed his son. He was literally a one man army, Rambo without the fine-tuned moral compass.

His nickname was siabartha, ‘the distorted one’. In the heat of battle he would hulk out by imploding and turning inside out. In this terrifying state, no edged weapon or spear point could harm him.

Total_recall_1990_funny_death

Was he really a champion of Ireland, or a killing machine sent by an elder race?

 

Check out the full story in A MYTHOS GRIMMLY from Wanderer’s Haven Press this December.  With 25 original works by Joseph S. Pulver, William Meikle, Peter Rawlik and yours truly.

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Deck the Halls with Boughs of Horror

My creepy Christmas story ‘With Their Eyes All Aglow’ was recently singled out in a review on Shocktotem, so I thought I’d share a little research that went into the tale.

O Little Town of Deathlehem, edited by Michael J. Evans and Harrison Graves

O Little Town of Deathlehem, edited by Michael J. Evans and Harrison Graves

Last Christmas time I heard a disturbing factoid reported on the radio: Each Christmas tree brings up to 25,000 bugs into your house.

Okay, tiny mites are icky, but it’s hard to beat spiders for pure terror. I looked at the lights shining on my tree and imagined a cluster of luminescent arachnids. Do glow-in-the-dark spiders even exist?

The glowing spider has only been spotted once, in the deepest jungle of Myanmar in 1923 by Barnum Brown, the curator for the American Museum of Natural History.

“Darkness came on swiftly and my pony began to stumble. Somewhere we had missed the trail…Presently, a few feet away, I saw a ball of light as large as a man’s thumb.

Tying the horse, I advanced as carefully as possible toward the object, which was surrounded by thorny bushes…I struck a match. There in full view was a spider, his large oval abdomen grayish with darker markings. Still he did not move, and as the match flame died out, his abdomen again glowed to full power, a completely oval light, similar in quality to that of the fireflies.

Remembering native tales of poisonous insects and spiders, I wrapped a handkerchief around one hand, parted the brush with the other, and when close enough, made a quick grab. Alas! The handkerchief caught on a stick before I could encircle him and my treasure scurried away. I followed as quickly as possible, but the light soon disappeared under stones, brush, or in some burrow, for I never saw it again.”

I had my spider and my setting. To make things more interesting, I made my glowing spiders more sociable.

Giant spider web forming in Texasbig web 2

Social spiders cooperate like ants or bees. Colonies can spin much larger webs and then swarm to take down prey as large as birds and bats.

(I was going to insert some photos of bats in webs, but I couldn’t find any that were not being feasted upon by giant spiders.  You’re welcome.)

My wife suggested the title for this story be, ‘Spiders get all up in yo’ bidness and then ruin Christmas.’ Yes, these spiders may ruin Christmas for a few unlucky people, but don’t let that stop you from checking out the anthology O Little Town of Deathlehem. You can buy the book at Amazon, and all profits from the anthology will benefit the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

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Gods Gonna Cut You Down

Many country western songs, especially those favored by Johnny Cash, seem to exist in a bleak Weird West haunted by wailing winds and ruled by Old Testament justice.  Listen to ‘Ain’t No Grave’, ‘The Man Comes Around’, or ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky’ and you’ll see what I mean.

The song ‘God’s Gonna Cut You Down’ has always painted vivid pictures in my mind.  In the song God tells John to let five sinners (the long tongued liar, the midnight rider, the rambler, the gambler and the back biter) know that they’re marked for judgment.  I wondered who these colorful characters were, and how they had ended up on the wrong side of God’s Law.  Who was John, the chosen messenger and avenger of the almighty?

Inspired, I decided to write my first story in the weird western genre.  Happily, my piece found the perfect home in SONG STORIES : BLAZE OF GLORY.  This is the second anthology from Song Stories Press featuring tales created from music.

Song Stories Blaze of Glory cover

In order to ground the ‘Weird’ I  wanted to make the historical details of my ‘West’ as accurate as I could.  Here are a few notes about the WEIRD.

MEET THE GANG:

The Long Tongued Liar

orochimaru

I chose the Long Tongued Liar to head up my band of outlaws.  The name conjured up Orochimaru, the scheming master of serpents and my favorite villain from the manga Naruto.  With God as long arm of the law, however, I knew my outlaws should be hell-spawn.  I searched the tomes of demonology for an appropriate counterpart and found Jezebeth, the Demoness of Falsehoods.  It’s hard to track down reliable information about her, but what else would you expect?

The Midnight Rider

ghost_riders

I have always wanted to write a weird western tale about the song ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky’.

As the riders loped on by him he heard one call his name
If you want to save your soul from Hell a-riding on our range
Then cowboy change your ways today or with us you will ride
Trying to catch the Devil’s herd, across these endless skies

With that character already in mind, I had my Midnight Rider.

The Rambler

medicinewagon

How to make rambling seem villainous?  I had a choice between a character that moved around a lot or one that talked too much.  I chose that latter and created Giovanni Mountebank, the loquacious showman behind “Dr. Giovanni Mountebank’s Medicine Show & Traveling Dime Museum.”

plague-doctor

A clue to Giovanni’s origins is the sinister bird mask that hangs above his clockwork wagon.  He was born in the Dark Ages, where he began his dubious career in medicine as a Plague Doctor.  While no medical training or experience was necessary, Plague Doctors had the special authority not only to record the Last Will and Testament of their patients, but to perform their autopsies as well.  Imagine the possibilities for corruption and you get an idea of Giovanni’s path to the dark side.

The Gambler

Navajo god 2

Every weird western needs a Skinwalker, and Nayenezgani Biwosi is mine.  His first name comes from the monster slaying hero of Navajo mythology.  Tucked into the background of all my demon outlaws is the story of righteous men corrupted by Jezebeth.  The name Biwosi comes from Hastiin Biwosi, the first Navajo killed in the witch purge of 1878.

In the gambling halls of the badlands, however, he is known as ‘The Suicide King’.  His favorite game is ‘Russian Roulette’ (although the term hadn’t been invented yet).  A skinwalker can assume the form of any hide or fur he is wearing.  The Gambler keeps a coyote pelt draped over his fancy clothes, but he plays for the skin of his victims.

The Backbiter

NosferatuShadow

I wanted to round out my rogues’ gallery with a vampire.  I needed to find a different angle on it as well as a way for a vampire to move around in the harsh sun baked southwest.  My solution was twofold: conjoined twins, one living, one undead.

siamese twins skeleton

John

civil war soldier

The grim avenger in this story is a mysterious man known only as John.  He hides scars beneath his deerskin gloves, carries thirty pieces of silver and wields an antiquated blunderbuss pistol loaded with crucifixion nails.  He once walked a very different path, but Jezebeth destroyed everything he knew.  Check out the story to find out more.

Pistol_Bayonet

Song Stories: Blaze of Glory on Amazon Paperback and Kindle

Song Story Press

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Prowl, Growl and Howl: 13 Werewolf Songs

It’s time for another list of Halloween songs, and this year the target of our hunt is…werewolves!werewolf dj

There is a surprising but wonderfully deep catalog of songs about lycanthropes.  It was a beastly task narrowing my list to just a few songs, buy my goal is always to select tunes that would play well at a party and expose you to something new.  This list will not include Ozzy, Duran Duran or Warren Zevon.   You should have those already.

Here are 13 tunes that are wild, hairy, and ferocious enough to get people howling on the dance floor.

1. Werewolf – The Frantics

This low key groove will make your skin tingle as if something was stalking you through moonlit woods.

2. The Killing Moon – Echo and the Bunnymen

BunnyMen and Werewolves, eternal enemies!

3. I Was A Teenage Werewolf – The Cramps

This song recounts the movie of the same title, and it makes me smile every time I hear it.

4. Teen Wolf – Low Pressure All Stars

Dear God. I just found this song about Teen Wolf.   Life is amazing.

It's THAT kind of party

It’s THAT kind of party

5. Wolfman Jack – Binary Star

This was on my first list of Halloween tunes, and it’s worth repeating.

6. The Howl – Johnny Eager

Let’s take a jump back in time to when monster songs and sock hops were all the craze.  Dig those saxophones daddio!

7. I’m the Wolfman – Round Robin

From just a few years later, but much more wild and aggressive.

8. Werewolf – Five Man Electrical Band

Now into the 70’s, with a great narrative about a family with a werewolf problem.

9. Howlin’ For You – Black Keys

And we’re back to present day!  Here’s a recent hit to make your guests wolf out.

10. You’re A Wolf – Seawolf

When the old gypsy woman shows up, can werewolves be far behind?

11. Wolf Like Me – TV On the Radio

Ah, werewolf love.

12. Werewolf – Southern Culture On The Skids

Does the world need more werewolf love songs?  Yes.  Yes it does.

13. Werewolf Bar Mitzvah – Jeff Richmond and Tracy Morgan

I love this song, no apologies.

Don’t forget to check out previous lists of handpicked Halloween songs from previous years here and here.  Do you know of a song that should have made the list?  Let me know in the comments.

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After Dark

YSF AD 1

I have been a mentor with Young Storytellers Foundation for only two semesters, but I have already been lucky enough to be paired up with a young writer with the chops to make it to Hollywood.

Many thanks to all the people who bought tickets to support a great organization and a fun evening, and special thanks to the actors and comedians who made it a night to remember.  Getting a chance to banter with Patton Oswalt and Dana Gould, however briefly, was surreal.  Randy and Jason Sklar were fantastic hosts, and Oscar Nunez from The Office was wildly funny.

YSF AD 3 YSF AD 2YSF AD 4

I know it was nerve wracking for my student, Alek, to have his Romantic Comedy “The Life of a Blob” performed live, but he had a fantastic time and his family was very proud.

YSF AD 5

I’m looking forward to the fall and a chance to mentor again.

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Tell ’em!

creepy texas men

I am pleased to announce that my weird western “Gods Gonna Cut Em Down” has been accepted into Song Stories: Blaze of Glory, the upcoming anthology from Song Story Press.

It’s a twisted, dark western about a band of demon outlaws and the cowboy messiah hunting them down.  It was a blast to write, and I’ll share more here when the book is ready.

BaldKnobber

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Ghost Tower

asura eating anger

An Asura feeding on anger

My short story GHOST TOWER was featured in the January 2013 edition of eFantasy Magazine.  It is a strange travelogue through Bangkok’s darkest corners and the Buddhist afterlife, and here is some information about the ideas and research that went into the story.

eFantasy cover

My first inspiration came from my honeymoon in Thailand.  It is a wonderfully surreal country steeped in history, religion and superstition.  I saw magic everywhere: Yan sigils painted on the insides of cars, mystical amulets for sale on every corner, and saffron robed monks traveling between countless temples filled with golden Buddha statues.

At first my eye was drawn to the allure of twisting rivers, old fishing boats and ancient ruins.  While riding the sleek, ultra modern monorail through Bangkok, however, I saw something strange jutting out of the skyline between the traditional terra cotta tile roofs of the temples.  I saw my first ghost tower.

The Asian economy was roaring in the 1990s, and a series of massive sky scrapers went into development.  When the market crashed, the money for the unfinished towers ran dry.  They are all still there, decades later, haunting the Bangkok skyline, their pale concrete skin ashen with soot and choked with thick creeping vines.

sathorn unique

The towers have begun to crumble and rain chunks of concrete and steel onto the streets below.  Why are they still there?  Why haven’t they been demolished and exorcised from the civic center?  To understand that, one must understand the Buddhist mind.  You have to take the good with the bad and accept things as they are.

The next major piece of inspiration was an article I read about the ‘body snatchers’ of Bangkok.  The city is infamous for being crowded, and with that comes nightmarish traffic.  Unfortunately there are also lots of very bad drivers and far too few ambulances.  It falls to the ‘body snatchers’, groups of volunteers, to prowl the city for accidents in the hopes of assisting the injured and dead.

Doing the Lord (Buddha)'s work

Doing the Lord (Buddha)’s work

As I said, Thailand is an extremely superstitious country.  Many Thai have an intense fear of ghosts, and the unhappy ghosts from high velocity car crashes are thought to be extremely powerful.  A volunteer can earn spiritual merit for rushing a wounded driver to the hospital.  The real reward, however, is in handling the haunted corpses and taking them to be cremated.  The spirit of the deceased is believed to be released from its body and free to move towards its next reincarnation.

I knew my story would involve the ghost towers and body snatchers.  It was another news article that really opened my eyes to the widespread belief in ancient black magic.  In May of 2012, a man was arrested with a suitcase of roasted baby fetuses.  He was trafficking in Kuman Thong, an ancient form of necromancy in which the spirits of babies are enslaved to bring wealth and protection to their owners.

A plastic kumon thong.  You don't want to see a real one.

A plastic kumon thong. You don’t want to see a real one.

The story then jumps into the Buddhist afterlife, one of the richest, most complex and fantastical realms in the world.  It’s too much to cover here, so I will simply leave you with a photo from Wat Rong Khun, a temple in northern Thailand that featires visions of the afterlife.

white temple hands of hell

It is a common misconception that the Buddhists do not have a hell. In fact, they have many.

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