A town born from secret horror.
A stranger with a hidden past.
A doomed destiny that entwines two friends and binds them in blood.
The road kill is coming.
My new novel ROAD KILL will be released on April 6.
A town born from secret horror.
A stranger with a hidden past.
A doomed destiny that entwines two friends and binds them in blood.
The road kill is coming.
My new novel ROAD KILL will be released on April 6.
When I started writing Road Kill as a kid some thirty years ago I envisioned it as two friends, obsessed with killing animals and heading down a very dark dead end.
It wasn’t going to end well and it didn’t.
It was about the idea that if the wrong people get together their evil can be amplified and intensified.
The story was one of supernatural retribution as well as the animals the boys had killed took their revenge in the end.
When I lost the story, having put the notebook I wrote it in on my mom’s car before she had driven off some place, the heartbreak from that loss lasted decades. I always loved the idea of that story and the main character of Bubba Diem stuck with me over the years. I kept thinking about revisiting the story but could never bring myself to do it, though I did start a sequel that didn’t get too far. It was the main story that had captured me.
Over the last few years I have been trying to clear old projects off of my plate, wanting to take care of writing projects I had begun but never finished. It was one of those things where I just wanted to feel as if I had told the stories I had meant to tell once upon a time, before time ran out for me.
Road Kill was the last of those stories.
The last story that was still waiting to be told.
Things have changed a lot for me over those years and so too did the story change. Bubba is the secondary character now with Spector taking the lead. I started mapping the story out in my head over the last few years and have lots and lots of notes as I started guiding the story forward. There was one image that stuck with me early on and that image stayed through the new version of the story. An image of the end, because I always knew how it was going to begin and how it was going to end, it was getting there that I never knew. The funny thing too is that the book continued to surprise me with the directions it took. I wrote in fits and spurts, never really focusing completely on it, but I managed to buy into the story I was writing and followed that through, to where it lead.
I am not sure that this was the story I meant to write initially, nor had begun writing. I can assure you that it’s not the story I wrote sa a kid.
This is darker, deeper, and while the name of the book stands true, it has a different meaning.
This is a mean book.
As 2019 dawns it brings with it two big anniversaries for me and two signposts in my writing.
My first book Back From Nothing was released in 1999.
I was a kid then, in more ways than one, and to have a book out was something I never imagined happening. I have gone into the story about it all but really, without the support of my folks, especially my mom, and without her investment in me and my writing, it never would have seen the light of day. I tried traditional publishing first, months and years and never got anywhere so I went the road I’d rather have not taken with subsidized publishing. I cant say I regret that path though because in all those years I never found any luck with traditional publishing. Even after all these years. Thankfully the market changed and opened up to allow people like me in, but it took a long time for that to happen. For the first few years after BFN was published I did everything I could to promote it. I did comic cons and took it with me. I made up chapbooks to keep pushing new work out. I created blogs and websites. I did readings. It got hard, promoting something that aged quickly – I put the book together in the late ’90’s so the stories weren’t new when they reached the public – but I never stopped believing in what I was doing and the path I had carved out.
The one regret I have, I suppose, is that all of the files for that book were from a word processor and are long, long gone so whatever exists of the book exists. Not that I expect to sell out, but it’s sad to think that if I did the book would just be…gone.
The book isn’t perfect. Far from it. It features the first writing from when I really got serious about things but it has some great ideas and is raw in a lot of ways but I love it for that. I went for it with those stories and just wrote and a lot of people don’t do that. It’s an imperfect book but that’s what makes it beautiful and it’s twenty years old this year.
In 2009 I was still promoting BFN at shows but I had reached a point of frustration where I needed to do something else. I had never stopped writing and had gotten some stories published in a magazine and in an anthology but I hadn’t progressed. I remember being at the Motor City Comic Con and my table was next to a guy selling one book, a huge fiction book about a superhero that he was selling for $25. He barely had a set up but was able to pitch the heck out of the book and his charisma sold it for people. I watched stunned as he sold dozens of books. I asked who he went through and he said he’d put it out himself and like that lightning struck me and I knew what I had to do. I immediately started looking into self publishing. What you have to remember is that before that time it would cost hundreds and thousands of dollars to put your own book out and it still held the mark of Vanity Publishing, the notion that if you were to put your own work out then it meant it wasn’t good enough for a publisher. We know a little better now. The times changed. Self Publishing costs came down, big companies got into things, and slowly we have gotten more acceptance. Telling an author that their work, if it’s self produced/published is no good or lesser than anything with a traditional publisher is to tell all artsits that unless someone tells them their work is good that it’s no good. Some of it was protecting the status quo but some of it was concern for lesser works flooding the market.
The market got flooded.
It’s a bit chaotic.
So be it.
Better that more voices are heard than less.
Better that more people get the opportunity to pursue their dreams than less.
Traditional publishing got languid and lazy and there had to be an alternative.
When I put This Beautiful Darkness out I hadn’t known if I’d ever get a chance to put another book out. My fire for writing, while low, had never died, and I found a way. The stories found a way. I still remember the reveal party I held, proud to be able to show my friends, family, and loved ones the new baby I had put together. And this book was a better reflection of where I was as a writer and where I was going. I finally had something else to promote and to sell and to build from.
I haven’t looked back.
Now I do.
It’s been ten years and wow, over a dozen more books written and released. Since then I have written novels, fantasies, children’s books, and none of it would have come to be if I had given up. None of it would have happened if I had not found self publishing. That gave me the opportunity to experiment and to play.
In honor of this anniversary I am putting a new version of This Beautiful Darkness out. Reformatted and with a new cover and new story added to it. I am not sure that the book and its anniversary would matter to anyone but me but it does matter.
Both books matter.
If I died today those are part of my legacy.
They are part of who I was and who I am.
I am not sure what this year holds but I want it to be special and I am working on making it that way already.
A million years ago, back when I was still a kid that had never even thought about writing more than occasionally and certainly never had thought about putting a book out, I wrote a story called Roadkill. In my mind it was a novella but in reality it was probably just a long short story. I was in my mid-teens and had handwritten the story in a spiral-bound notebook. I thought I had written a great story. It was about two friends who had a bad habit of running animals down with a car. Things escalated when things with the boys went awry and the end was a bit of comeuppance from Mother Nature.
Ah, but that book was never meant to be.
I still remember my foolish mistake when I, carrying the notebook around with me after the story had been completed, put it on top of my mom’s car and forgot about it.
I was heartbroken at the loss of that story and for about thirty years I have been wanting to revisit that story, to re-visit and re-write the story. I even planned a sequel and started working on it. As I started writing more regularly, and doing shows though, I never seriously sat down to write that story. It slowly evoloved over time and I started to think about it but never wanted to write it. I just didn’t have an interest in writing a novel, let alone THAT novel. It was sort of the same mentality I have with video games – if I get stuck I just sorta shrug and move on. I dunno if it’s me giving up or if its me deciding that the frustration isn’t worth it. The fact was though that I was heartbroken to have lost that book and hated the thought of re-writing it from scratch. Maybe that was silly but it was how I felt.
WHen I started putting books out I started working through the stories I had been sititing on as well as putting together new stories. Over the last few years I have been working to clear the books, as it were – trying to finish projects tha I had started but never completed. That lead to the completion of A SHADOW OVER EVER and CEMETERY EARTH, as well as the conclusion of the Meep Sheep trilogy. I just wanted to get these stories that had been sitting around for a while off my mind and conscience. Because it felt like something to do with conscience – that I HAD to get these stories written and out. As if it had been a pact I had taken on with myself.
That brings us to ROADKILL.
I am of two minds with my writing –
On one hand I don’t want tp keep putting books out that very few people are interested in or buying. It just seems silly. I love writing, I’ll always write, but I don’t want to become a joke.
Then there’s the part of me that wants to keep writing and producing stories, which means putting them out. I don’t want to chase markets and try to get published in a magazine or something like that because I did that before and it was nothing less than frustrating. Would I love to get published traditionally? OF COURSE! But I just don’t want to change my focus to that because as many markets as there are, there are still ten times more authors than that and man, I just wanna write stories. That’s all.
Over the last couple of years I have started wanting to get back to this story and to finally tackle it. I fully admit though that this was the story, the book, that has haunted me for a while because it’s lingered for so long that it started to freak me out. Do I try to re-do that exact story or write something new?
Slowly I started to take notes to try to get the story down in my mind. I knew it was still a story about two friends. I knew it was dark. Very dark. And I knew it happened in Munsonville, my made up Michigan town where SHADOW takes places as well as some of my other stories. Then it became a matter of – OK, I need to write this. Another slow process where I’d write a little here and there. I knew how it started. I knew how it ended. The rest? Yikes.
Over the course of 2018 I have worked on and off on the book with a need to get it done but no drive to do the work. When I lost my job in October suddenly a lot of time opened up and the excuses had run out – It was time to finish the book.
I wasn’t sure where it was going.
I wasn’t sure what it was about.
I wasn’t sure how to get where I needed to be.
So I did what I do – jumped in and just started writing, letting the story and characters make their own direction. The book changed, a lot, from what I had been thinking. The ending was close to what I had been thinking but what it meant and how I got there changed. I also discovered some answers to mysteries I hadn’t even known existed. As I wrote the story got clearer and clearer and finally I had found the heart of the book and drove right through it.
I finished the book a week ago today and it still feels weird.
It’s been the longest gestating of my books and I hope that is a good thing.
I hope it’s good.
Heck, I hope it’s great.
I just know it is what it is.
And what it is, is DONE!
There’s a lot of work to do, editing, revising, and fleshing out, but it’s written and honestly, the rest is the easier part and to some degrees the part that is more fun because it means I get to start making this thing work better. What I have after that, well, we’ll see. I don’t see it being something a lot of people will want to read because, as I said, it’s dark, and it’s just weird.
It’s all so new still so I am thinking of things to add, things to flesh out, and that will keep happening. My plan is to let the book sit for a month or two and then dive back into it and then we’ll see what we see.
For now though, it’s good to have it done, my strange story of two friends on a dark path.
I loved revisiting these people and this town, and it’ll be ineresting to see what comes next.
Creepy story about one-sided infatuation of the nastiest kind. Fair warning if that’s a trigger for you.
It was her smile.
That was what first drew me to her.
That partial smile that seemed to say more than words could ever hope to.
It was a moment.
It was enough.
Enough to carve itself into my heart.
And here we are.
Me standing on her doorstep, ready to make a fool of myself.
We met at the grocery store. I was there to pick up some dinner when she got in line behind me. I wasn’t in a hurry and stepped aside to let her go ahead of me. She had more items but for me, chivalry never died. She was short, blonde, I guess you’d say a little chubby, though I liked ladies with a little health on their bones, it makes them look like real women, ya know? She had tattoos down her arms and while I don’t really care for tattoos her smile won me over, starting in her brown eyes and pouring down over her face until it pooled at her lips. I smiled back and nodded and let the kid at the register ring her up. I resisted the urge to stare at the short skirt and what it barely hid and instead looked at the left bra strap that stuck out bright and red from her white tank top. I felt a smile form and it remained when I got up to the register jockey, who was also smiling. He nodded towards the young woman and smiled as he started nodding.
“Damn. Am I right?” His smile widened and as his grew, mine shrank. I put the microwave dinner down on the conveyor belt and looked around and, seeing no one, leaned towards the kid, who couldn’t have been eighteen.
I reached forward and grabbed the kid’s hand in my own and started squeezing, and squeezing, and squeezing and the harder I squeezed the wider my smile got until he cried out. Once he did that the girl that was supposed to be register jockeying at the next register over stopped doting on the asshole kid standing in line and rushed over and I quit the scene and beat it out of there, content that I had made my point.
I didn’t go back into the grocery store.
I didn’t like their lax hiring practices and rudeness.
I started parking in their parking lot just the same though, taking my work breaks and lunches there and even my off hours and making a point to keep an eye on things just because.
I am a bachelor, my last, uh, relationship, having ended abruptly a few weeks earlier and I needed a hobby so the young lady became that hobby, I suppose. That smile, that smile she gave me meant something. I knew it did so I wanted to make sure that we met again. There was one night I decided to follow the register jockey home just to, you know, see that he got home safely. Wed had a conversation about manners.
I’ll leave it at that.
Then it was back to her.
The young lady had been on my mind since I saw her that first time. She was with me like an infection and no matter how hard I itched at it, closing my eyes at night and thinking of her, concentrating on her as if she were a piece of my furniture to be possessed, but it wasn’t the same.
I wanted her.
I saw her again three weeks after that first time. I was halfway through a beer, listening to talk radio and laughing to myself every time I saw that loud mouth kid hobble out for a smoke break in his leg cast. Accidents. Shame they happen so often.
She looked different this time, not done up, more like beat up. Scrubby. Wearing those goddamn yoga pants that too many women wear these days and a half shirt and covered in sweat. She had walked there and she was only in long enough to grab a water from what I could tell and then she was out again, earbuds in and walking off down the street.
My hands got itchy on seeing her.
My heart started to race.
I started my car and decided to follow her, to make sure she got home safely.
There’d been some nasty business a few weeks back with a girl, a teenager, just a few blocks from the girl’s home.
I didn’t want to see the same happen to this one.
Not this one.
The sun was setting and traffic was light so I slow-rolled it to keep up with her without her seeing. No reason to spook her. Besides, dad always told me that a good deed that hit the air carried the scent of an old turd. So low and slow, like good cooking, that was how I let this trail simmer.
When she went into a familiar apartment building I peeled off and headed for home. I had taken the last of my vacation keeping an eye on the store and needed the job so I went home and went right to bed. I thought of her as I started nodding off, the faint smile fading as I thought about how she had looked today.
It wasn’t going to cut it.
I didn’t get a chance to see her for several days. Work was calling me early and keeping me late, though I did keep tabs on her. I worry, as I said, for a young woman such as her. Another local girl had been picked up, well, about eight months ago and had disappeared. Just gone. There was fear that she wasn’t the only one and that there was trafficking in the area. I wasn’t sure about all that, just that there were sharks out there and if a young woman didn’t have someone looking out for her that they might just disappear into the deep, deep waters of the night.
When I did get a chance to see her I saw her with someone, a man, older than her, and dressing to impress. Trying to hard if you asked me. I didn’t like the look of him so I followed them from her apartment to a bar, then a restaurant, then the movies. The bar was a dive. The restaurant was too expensive. The movie was stupid. I saw what he was doing and knew she was probably still buzzed. I saw how his hand moved from her shoulder, to her hip, then lower. Her laughter and smile had dried up by the time they returned to her apartment building and when he tried to make a move and she slapped him he grabbed her wrist for a moment, just a moment, but she raised her hand again and he let her go and she left in a hurry and went inside.
The man stayed in his car, parked at the curb for about twenty minutes after that before he finally put it into gear and started to drive away.
He didn’t live far.
Not far at all.
And he left his door unlocked when he got home.
He should be more careful.
There’re sharks out and he had swum out a little too deep.
The next day I called in sick and went by her apartment early and followed her to her job. An office job. Nothing special but work was work. Nobody knew that better than me. I stayed through to her lunch, which she took in her car, on her phone tap-tap-tapping away and not eating.
She should eat.
She could use some weight on her.
All that running she does has slimmed her up.
Her bones don’t look good on her.
When she went back in I left to run an errand and made sure I had dropped the flowers onto her doorstep before she would be home. I hid in the stairwell and watched as she got them, frowning, dropping them onto the hall floor before slamming her door.
I guess she didn’t like flowers much.
The infection that she was was starting to get out of control.
She was all I thought about.
I liked her all made up for work.
She was pretty.
Like I had seen her that first time.
When she was home, just home by herself, she was a slob.
I had seen her go out for snacks or take out and it disgusted me.
She could be so pretty if she’d try.
I would have to set her straight.
I looked at the calendar back at the house and circled a date.
That was the day I’d introduce myself.
I practiced what I’d say.
I picked out what I’d wear.
I got my supplies together into a plastic bag.
I even went to her apartment a few times to get over the nerves.
It was the night before I was going to go finally make her mine when something happened.
I was at the movies just wasting time, watching something to get my mind off of her and the counter girl was so nice, so sweet, and she looked so, I dunno how to say it, fresh, that it was as if I had never seen the other girl.
It was as if the infection was gone, the fever dream had cleared and I saw the other woman as the disgusting slob she was.
She was nothing like this girl.
Wendy was different.
You could tell. She even gave me a large pop without charging, a wry wink shared between us when she did.
She was a little young, that’s what they’d say, but age means nothing to the heart.
I know that it may not work, that she may not feel the same but, that’s love.
It’s about making a fool of yourself.
It’s about deciding if you are ready to cross that line and when you do, knowing that whatever happens next is up to you.
Standing on someone’s doorstep, heart in hand, and making a fool of yourself.
After that…it’s up to fate.
I suppose I should break it to the other girl easy, let her know I have moved on.
Then, well then, I suppose I’d have to circle a date on the calendar and pick out what I was going to say to Miss Wendy.
It really does do the heart good, doesn’t it?
As I have found myself with time on my hands of late I have decided it really is time to get back to The Damned Novel, which, I think I honestly call any of the books that I have put out that were novel length. This particular one has been a pain in my biscuits for a bit though, I have to admit. It began life as something I wrote as a teen, written in a spiral bound notebook as one whole story. In my mind it’s a novella but frankly it was probably more like a short story, maybe longish.
I have to revert back to remembering what it was because it’s gone.
Long, long gone.
You see, once upon a time I was carrying the notebook around and foolishly put it on top of my mom’s car – who knows why we do these things? – and then it was just…gone.
I was heartbroken.
I still sorta am.
I remember what it was, what it essentially was, and in there was a germ of something that has stuck with me. Many years ago I decided I wanted to ‘clear the decks’ as far as stories go. Just so any stories I had hanging in my mind I’d get into the world. This is really the last of those. It’s not a story that I felt needed to be told but one that’s been stuck in my craw. I started it, man, years ago, and keep putting off getting to it. It’s weird because there’s not a reason to keep me from it but I just keep putting it off.
Well, that time has passed.
It’s time to get to it.
And I am, finally.
I know how it ends, and have known it for a while.
What’s interesting is the story has changed not just since I wrote the first version, but it has changed and hopefully evolved since I first started re-working it. The mystery of writing is that between your mind and hands there is some weird creation process that takes these stories from one thing into another. To me, it’s what writers mean when they say a work writes itself. It obviously doesn’t but the process of creation happens so quickly that it feels and seems like a sort of lightning that you can only hope to catch on the page.
So the work has begun anew.
And it’s a lot of work.
The story is still surprising me but I know what I want it to be, I just have to see if that’s what the story wants to be.
Time will tell.
Let’s just hope I can keep myself on this thing so I can finally get it done.
This is a wee tale. First draft. Very rough. Me working out some ideas and seeing what is there. There’s the seed for another story planted here if I ever have time to swing back to it. We shall see.
He wasn’t sure when his choice had become his fate.
He wasn’t sure when the distant hum in his head became a voice and then a chorus.
He wasn’t sure when the bottle stopped being a party and became a sentence.
He wasn’t sure of much anymore, just that some days it felt as if the fog had cleared from his head and he found himself in a place he didn’t recall and he wasn’t sure where he had been, where he had come from, and how he had come to be where he was.
And it shook him.
To his core.
To his faith.
To the bottom of himself
But it never lasted.
The fog came back.
The voices returned.
And both seemed to be at the bottom of the bottle.
And they helped, the smiling faces, the nodding heads, and the open wallets.
Helped as much as they could.
But he wasn’t able to return their gestures.
Unable to repay their kindness with the truth because the truth was a sea he had not sailed in how many days, or weeks, or months, or even years.
He couldn’t even remember his age.
So he’d lie.
He lost his job.
He lost his family.
He lost his love.
He tuned out, he gave up, he walked on.
It was different every time, his earnest responses met with a pat on his shoulder and a knowing nod.
On and on and on he went, never sure where he was going, just that it was forward.
He has always seen himself cast in the part of victim in this play, as the man slighted by god, by society, and by his fellow man.
The truth of that lie though was revealed to him one day when the clouds cleared for him as he lay next to the bodies of two dead teenagers.
They couldn’t have been older than fifteen.
They could have been his children.
His daughter and son.
Their heads had been caved in, presumably with the shattered cinder block he was holding in his hand, their blood thick and sticky on his hands and face.
Their wallets were still on them.
There were no drugs around that he could find, and no booze.
The only clue he had was the change that was scattered around the bodies.
He looked around and saw that he was at the end of an alley full of piles of trash and burned out lights.
He wept beside them as he it slowly dawned on him that this probably wasn’t the first time he’d hurt someone.
He just couldn’t remember.
His left arm was itching and he looked down and saw there were two fresh cuts in the skin that were red and inflamed.
Two fresh cuts to go with four other cuts that were scarred over.
He took the boy’s wallet and the cash from the girl and covered them up with some boxes, the best burial he could offer them.
It wasn’t fair.
This wasn’t fair.
But if there was someone who understood how unfair this world was it was him, so maybe it was fitting that he was the one to usher them into the darkness.
And the clarity would fade, and the voices would get louder and they would drive him forward, telling him where to go and what to do as he slept deep within.
Trapped within the madness.
Trapped within his cage.
But as he shambled out of the alley and down the darkened city sidewalk a chilling thought came to him, a question that asked if these moments of clarity were not his true personality, his true face.
The face of the killer.
The face of the monster.
The voices were the lie, the sweet whispers to lull him back to sleep to keep him safe.
To keep him buried.
To keep him dead.