We’ve been here before, and hopefully we’ll be here again. In any case, my novella Cruce Roosters has made the Preliminary Ballot for the Bram Stoker Awards in the Long Fiction Category. If it gets enough votes, it will be placed on the Final Ballot with four other stellar works. From the Final Ballot, a winner is chosen for the Bram Stoker (R) award.
If you’re an Active Member in the HWA, a Lifetime Member in the HWA, or a book reviewer who’s super awesome, holler at me for an ebook of Cruce Roosters in your inbox like now. Honestly, what are you waiting for? You could have already been reading Cruce Roosters. Email brentkelleybooks at gmail dot com, and your copy ye shall have. DO NOT USE IT FOR EVIL!
Know what makes a great gift? Books by BMK! Oh, there’s something for everyone. For folks who like a chuckle with their spookiness, there’s Keep Away From Psycho Joe. For the hardcore rebels in the family, there’s Cruce Roosters. And for folks who like reading about foul-mouthed drunks fighting monsters, there’s the Chuggie books. Here’s some images you can share!
And don’t forget, a great gift for authors is a book review. All authors. Not just me. They love it. And they also love when you send me other presents.
Hey there, folks! Today I got to chat with fellow Omnium Gatherum author Sean Patrick Traver. He’s got a brand new book out TODAY, and you should totally get it. It’s the first installment of Bruja Chica: The Education of a Witch, and this book is Episode 1: The Fat Lady Sings.
Tom Delgado, a century-old necromancer who resides in the body of a black cat, takes a young orphan turned witch, Lia Flores, under his tutelage. The episodic tale take us from Tom’s earliest efforts to provide shelter and food for a young girl in an unforgiving urban landscape to Lia’s maturation into a powerful sorcerer who must decide how to use her extraordinary skills in the everyday world. Predators lurk in the city, and one has set his sights on Tom’s young ward. In his current form as a tiny, sickly kitten, he’s no match for this human monster. Not far away, there just might be a fat lady who is…
Brent Michael Kelley: Thanks for chatting, Sean! So tell me about this book you got coming out.
Sean Patrick Traver: The book I have coming out is called Bruja Chica: The Education of a Witch. In brief it’s about a century-old ghost lodged in the body of a black cat and his efforts to train a young orphan as a witch. But it’s also about unseen lives being led in the shadows, about nature happening in the midst of culture, and about the history that LA plows under almost as fast as it occurs.
BMK: It’s the first of a series, right?
SPT: Yes! This volume, The Fat Lady Sings, is the first in a series of eight novellas, collectively titled Bruja Chica: The Education of a Witch. But Bruja Chica is also a part of my Temple, Tree, & Tower series, which includes my novels Red Witch and Graves’ End. In that context, Bruja Chica takes place right before the events of Graves’ End. Confused yet?
BMK: Not at all. How much of the Bruja Chica series is planned out? Is the whole series outlined, or is it a “write the next one and see where it goes” kind of process?
SPT: There were certainly a few tropes I wanted to avoid – like the ‘chosen one’ tormented by a responsibility they never asked for. Part of what appeals to me about witches is that they have crafts rather than powers. They have to learn to be what they are (at least according to my mythology), and I find that a lot more interesting. Tom chooses Lia (in Brujachica) because he knows he can trust her, and Lia accepts Tom as her teacher because she wants to know the secret things he can impart. I like that they want to be there, in the plot, as much as they have to be.
In terms of other authors, Neil Gaiman is an inescapable influence. Fans of The Graveyard Book especially might enjoy Brujachica.
BMK: How do you keep yourself motivated in a huge project like this? Are you part robot?
SPT: Yes – the question is, which part?
It can be difficult to stay motivated on a long project. The episodic structure that allows this one to be easily serialized was something that helped. I could break it up into managable pieces, small stories within a larger arc.
BMK: Do you ever have to give yourself a Vince Lombardi-style locker room speech to light the writing-fire?
SPT: Occasionally! Or I just berate my lazy ass into doing something. I think more frequently I ignore reality in favor of keeping the writing-fire burning. Like any sort of momentum, it’s easier to keep it rolling than to start again from a standstill.
Sometimes it reminds me of the way I was ‘into’ things as a kid – Star Wars, Indiana Jones, whatever. Buying toys, wearing the t-shirts, that was all a part of keeping the thing I loved present in my head, churning away on some back channel of my brain, even as I was doing whatever else I had to do.
And I still do similar things now. I have a habit of gathering up the props and artifacts my characters would own. I’ve got Tom’s walking stick propped up over in the corner right now, for example.
BMK: Smells like a merchandising opportunity to me!
SPT: Yeah, my own line of black cats
BMK: You could shave their side and tattoo the book cover on them!
SPT: Hey, I like that idea! Or just start with hairless cats…
BMK: What is the magic system like in this series?
SPT: Its deepest roots are in Aztec mythology, since Tom’s patron was once Mictlantecuhtli, the God of the Dead, before he cheated death and took up residence in a series of cats. There are ideas from other occult traditions woven in too, such as the ritual systems of Thelema and the Golden Dawn. The magic Lia learns to perform is intuitive, personal, and emotional–single-use rituals designed on the fly, using whatever implements are to hand.
One of my favorite depictions of magic is in the movie Field of Dreams, where voices and synchronistic occurrences lead the main character through a series of trials and revelations that culminate in the fulfillment of his most deeply-held wishes. I like magic to come from places like that, rather than from rote formulas read out from books. Who the witch is and why she’s doing this work are as important to the outcome as any specific steps.
BMK: Is it a challenge to square that magic with modern technology?
SPT: No, I think they actually go together pretty well. Tom has been around for a hundred years, he’s watched a lot of technology develop since its infancy and he’s fascinated by it. Plus I like the idea that technology is often trying to replicate the desired effects of magic. A smartphone might look a lot like an obsidian scrying mirror to a medieval seer.
BMK: How has your experience been working with Omnium Gatherum?
SPT: Working with OG has been wonderful. It’s been a real pleasure to work with a great editor who’s committed to making the book the best it can be. I’m looking forward to notes on the next volume. It’s been fun to get in there and polish them up.
BMK: You mentioned earlier you are part robot… What will I need to do to be spared when the Robots decimate humanity in the inevitable Human/Robot Wars? How can I assure my new robotic overlords that sparing me is worth the trouble?
SPT: I don’t think there’s much you can do about the robot uprising. Resistance is futile, you know.
BMK: Thanks again for taking the time. The book sounds great, and I wish you lots of luck!
SPT: Thank you for having me, I always appreciate a chance to yap about my characters!
Welcome back to the ol’ webpage, chums! Today I am delighted to share a little flash fiction from my pal Eddie Generous. Eddie wears a lot of hats over at Unnerving… Luckily for me, one of those hats has Writer stenciled on it (quite nicely, I’d add). I had the opportunity to chat with Eddie on the Unnerving Podcast not long ago, and who knows? Maybe he and I have some more shenanigans cooking right this second? Here’s Gin Haze. Enjoy!
Yolanda Handler celebrated her fourteenth birthday with her first glass of gin. Discovering distaste for the liquor—and by extension, her friend Whitney–Yolanda shouted a holy tirade about her suddenly tarnished goodness. Whitney, less drunk by several degrees, instructed Yolanda to shut up or get out.
Out it was. Home was a six-kilometer city walk, five if she cut through the park. This typically took about an hour, but in her liquor slickened state, an hour had come and gone with another three kilometers to go.
The cement park path bent around a field. Yolanda’s heart broke with exhaustion. It was as if she’d never been so far from her bed. Across the park was the church. Once there, she still had to turn left down Honeysuckle Avenue, and beyond that, continue a block before reaching her door.
The distance toyed in the realm of lightyears.
Yolanda stumbled into the damp grass off the trail. Shortening the shortcut. She moved outside the touch of the overhead lights, into the shadows. The dewy floor danced beneath her. The gin in her blood had her limbs like greasy rubber.
Already spinning, Yolanda hadn’t noticed she was falling until she fell, took a mouthful of grass. “I hate you!” Fingers yanked green strands out from its earthen scalp.
Up, she ambled along, forcing a jog that was nearly as much sideways as it was forwards. Blackout blinks stole bits until they became chunks. Unconscious on her feet for two shuffled steps, she tipped. She awoke on the ground. How she’d gotten face down in the wet grass again was not a mystery of how, but when.
“I hope you die.” Yolanda combed the damp field as her eyes slipped closed once again.
Times passed beyond recognition and her eyes opened. Mouth sticky and tasting awful. Head throbbing. Body numb. Yolanda patted the grass, squinting at a change. Not only were the strands dry, but they were different, shorter and firmer. The drunkenness had dissipated, drastically. She looked left and then right, saw absolutely nothing. Above, far away, was a yellow sliver that might’ve been the moon.
Up, pre-gin steadiness filled her legs, though the absence of light left her shaky. Balance was an agreement between the eyes, ears, and extremities. Toe tapping for obstacles, she moved blindly. To her left, there was a moist squishy noise. She veered to the right. One, two, three steps, her extended fingers met a wall.
The only wall that should exist given her last recognizable location was the church, and even that was a stretch. Beneath her touch was not brick. Here was a surface flat and warm, steel or plastic, free of pores. Slapped palms offered virtually no report.
Yolanda had heard that bad moonshine made a person go blind. Did gin make a girl go blind? Go crazy?
The tears resumed. The squishing sound slowed, a handful of chirpy clicks joined in, mostly from her left. But in motion. Nasty, insectile chittering. Shoulder to the wall, she made distance. The bug noises, echoed from behind, below, and above.
Fear bubbled. This was the outcome of underage drinking and she’d never been sorrier.
“God, can you hear me? Sorry.” She quickened her pace as the things behind grew busier in her wake.
Then the wet sloshing became frantic, she broke into a jog, the wall leaned into her as she leaned into it, and after a dozen steps, the sound was ahead of her rather than behind her, she stalled in confusion and terror, dropped into a crouch, the sliver moon above was the only hope remaining.
That light still existed somewhere was a life preserver.
The sloppy movement continued its approach, from every angle, though lesser so from across the empty space.
The sliver of light dimmed for a half-second before two stick-like objects entered the image, followed by a huge bumpy head and a translucent abdomen that put a green hue over the faraway glow.
The truth struck. Not the moon.
The sounds at her peripherals were too close and she broke as if from blocks at a starter pistol’s bark, fourteen steps in a left-veering path took Yolanda to the wall at the far side of the room, and her middle finger crunched on contact, it hurt, but the terror was greater.
“Let me outta here!”
The squishy motion was everywhere, the sliver above had vanished behind cloudy activity. Three painful jabs at her face brought her arms up to guard.
She ran, screaming.
To her left, the noise was less.
She hit wall again.
Things prodded and broke skin.
She spun, hands to weeping wounds suddenly inhabited by digging critters, she tried to run, but a wave hit her and burrowers created pathways, the chittering teeth tore and swallowed as if her constitution resembled butter rather than fresh, untanned leather, “You got—!” the words choked away as a creature entered Yolanda’s mouth a tunnel dug through her sinus.
It squirmed an elastic body into the hard palate.
Lights on, the buttoned down scientists peered into the observation dome. It was similar every time, and though varying the scenery caused differences, it never changed the outcome.
“Much slower in the dark,” Dr. Polina Alexandrovna said.
Dr. Richard Bachman nodded. “Further suggests eyes are the prime means of locating nutrients and vessels. Subject Ten lasted the longest by two minutes four seconds.”
The body of Yolanda Handler, Subject Ten, was a lump above a dark stain in the faux-grass. It had been three hours and nine minutes since she’d died and was due any minute to…
“Ho, here we go,” Dr. Alexandrovna said.
The body of Yolanda, bloodied, gaping holes in her arms and face, rose to a shaky stance. The slack mouth hissed and chattered from within. The five bugs crammed into her brainpan moved Yolanda as if she was a string-less marionette.
“Remarkable,” Dr. Bachman said. “It never ceases to amaze me. It’s terrifying.”
Dr. Alexandrovna nodded. “Any hard numbers?”
“ROSCOSMOS and NASA are running circles, now they’re saying it might be more than twelve hundred bugs have escaped. Any word on the news?”
Below, the former Yolanda slammed a fist against a wall. Gazing upwards, seeing through the reflective tinted ceiling, hungry to infest and ingest.
“Some. I’m not going outside for a while.”
Dr. Bachman offered a sick expression. “I should think not.”
The former Yolanda slammed a fist again, mouth opening. “Feed us and you may live.” The words came out in bug clicks and chirps, but were unmistakable.
Dr. Bachman lifted his brows. “That’s new.”
“They’re learning by committee.”
Eddie Generous is the author of the novel Radio Run (from Severed Press), the collection Dead is Dead, but Not Always (from Hellbound Books), and the novel Camp Summit (coming 2019 from DBP). He is the founder/editor/publisher/artist of Unnerving and Unnerving Magazine, and the host of the Unnerving Podcast. He lives on the Pacific Coast of Canada with his wife and their cat overlords. Click him up at www.jiffypopandhorror.com!