One hell of a weird story! Surreal and spellbinding

what immortal hand

Johnny Worthen’s What Immortal Hand (Omnium Gatherum, October 2017) is one hell of a weird story. It’s the darkest horror I’ve read in a long time.

Michael Oswald stares into the Abyss. He’s already lost his wife, his home, his kids, and now he’s about to lose his job. He feels himself on a slippery slope sliding into nothingness. His self-destruction is nearly complete. He feels as if he has no past, no future. It’s as if time itself plays tricks on him. He loses hours, days, weeks, maybe even years.

He can’t remember his early childhood the way other people can. He can’t even remember half of what happened yesterday. To the world, Michael Oswald is a loser because he values none of the trappings of civilized society. Michael has always been different than others. He believes it’s because he was raised within the foster care system, a ward of the state. He’s had many names, a different last name each time he entered a new foster home, and he has no idea at all who he truly is, who his real parents are, or who raised him during those influential years from three to seven.

Who is he? Where is he? When is he?

What is he?

All his life, it seems, Michael has been aware that there is a caste system—a natural order—at work in the world, even in democratic America. There’s always been haves and have-nots. There’s always been thugs who prey on Travelers. Some people deserve to die and need to be killed as a public service. But, in the end, all living things must die.

If God gives you lemons, get another god. Everyone is born of a Mother, isn’t he or she? And isn’t everyone reborn again and again?

Heh heh.

One hell of a weird story! Surreal and spellbinding. Johnny Worthen’s What Immortal Hand is the darkest tale I’ve read in a long time.

 

 

 

I’m Paul Dale Anderson, and I Kill People for a Living

 

SF writers love to astound people. Suspense writers love to leave people hanging, oftentimes from cliffs and sometimes from ropes. Thriller writers love to take people on fast  death-defying roller coaster rides. Mystery writers love to lead people on a merry chase, often with hounds nosing up the wrong trees while the fox hides in plain sight.

We horror writers love to shock people.

I read aloud from my works recently at a public library. I was the last writer to read that afternoon. I shocked people awake by saying, “I’m Paul Dale Anderson, and I kill people for a living.”

The nine mostly-mainstream writers who preceded me identified themselves as fiction writers or biographers or historians or journalists who celebrate the lives of either real or fictional people in books.

I write about death and dying. I celebrate murder.

I identify with serial killers. I identify with trained assassins. I kill people for fun and profit. I love to get into the minds of my villains as much as, or perhaps more so than, the minds of my protagonists. I want to show why, as well as how, people do what they do.

Like I said, we horror writers love to shock people. I write shock suspense stories that cross genres, but all of my stories and novels turn into cautionary tales. I am the executioner who holds an axe over your head, and I love to watch the hairs on the back of your neck bristle.

Make one false move, and feel the bite of my Instruments of Death.

 

 

Smokescreens

 

 

The Anderson and Crosby family Sagas Revealed:

Or have I told you lately why I still smoke tobacco?

It’s true I descend from a long line of a smokers. My father was a smoker. Dad smoked unfiltered Camels or unfiltered Pall Malls. Both my grandfathers were life-long smokers. My grandpa Charlie was a pipe smoker and Grandpa Bert smoked cigars. Grandpa Charlie and Grandma Stina lived in the same house with me and my parents (they lived downstairs and we lived upstairs) until I was twelve. Stina died at age 76 of a stroke and Charlie died at 86, a few months after Grandma died, of a broken heart. I discovered my grandfather’s unresponsive body when I tried to wake him for breakfast in June of 1956.

I inherited my grandfather’s hand-carved Swedish pipes. My father presented them to me after Charlie’s funeral and told me they belonged to me now. I cherished those pipes and the memories of my grandfather smoking tobacco in each of them. I still own those pipes.

1956 was also the year my father made me give away or burn all of my comic books (including my ECs) because I was too grown-up to be reading comics. I switched to buying sf paperbacks instead of comics. I checked out hardbound novels from the public library. I moved into my grandparents’ room in the basement and built bookcases to house my own library. Almost every penny I earned from my paper routes went into buying paperback books (the rest went into buying Playboy magazines and trashy Men’s Adventure magazines). Eventually, I secretly began buying comic books again, hiding them inside Playboys and Argosys and Equires to smuggle them past my parents. Today I own hardbound collector’s editions of all of the EC horror comics and I am in the process of acquiring hardbounds of the Harvey Horror and ACG reprints.

My father smoked. My mother didn’t. My mother died in her early fifties after botched gall bladder surgery. My father died, of a broken heart, in his mid-sixties. We’ll talk a little more about that later.

My Uncle Bill smoked. My Aunt Hazel didn’t. Hazel died first. She died, as her mother died, of a stroke. Uncle Bill died of a broken heart three years later. Bill continued to smoke, despite severe emphysema or COPD that developed after Aunt Hazel died, until his dying day.

When I met Gretta McCombs, she smoked True Menthol cigarettes and I smoked a pipe. Gretta quit smoking shortly after we were married. I continued to smoke a pipe until Gretta was diagnosed with a heart condition. I quit smoking for more than ten years as Gretta’s heart conditioned worsened. When Gretta died, I was a certified hypnotist who had helped hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people stop smoking. I stopped doing hypnosis the year after Gretta died.

The first thing I did, however, after Gretta died of a massive heart attack on January 31, 2012 (after the paramedics and doctors and police officers and the coroner’s examiner left the house and I had helped the lone funeral home employee carry Gretta’s bagged body downstairs and out to the hearse), was walk to the nearest convenience store to buy a package of cigarettes and a lighter. I smoked two Camel cigarettes on the long walk home.

Now let’s go back to when my mother died. I was away at the University of Illinois where I majored in physics (Dr. Dale Compton, the laser researcher, was my faculty adviser) and minored in journalism. I worked nights on the Daily Illini newspaper with Roger Ebert. I had a daily 2-hour radio show on WPGU. I was on the U of I varsity rifle team and we traveled to other Big Ten universities every weekend where we fired in competition. I had no time nor desire to smoke at all in those days.

My father didn’t want to disrupt my education with worries of home, so he deliberately neglected to tell me that my mother was dying. I discovered the fact that my mother had only days to live when I telephoned home person-to-person collect and asked to speak with my mother. I heard my father tell the long-distance operator that my mother was in the hospital and could not accept the call. The operator inquired when my mother would be available, and my father said, “Never. She’s dying.” I told the operator I would pay the charges myself. I talked with my father who broke down in tears and told me everything.

I rushed to catch the next Greyhound bus home. I was able to briefly speak with my mother at the hospital before she lapsed into coma. She passed away two days later.

My father and I commiserated by smoking. I bought a Dr. Grabow briar pipe and a pouch of Cherry Blend smoking tobacco. Dad smoked his Pall Malls and I smoked my pipe. I learned that dad had upped his smoking to four packs a day instead of his usual one pack a day while mom was hospitalized. He did cut back to two packs a day after mom’s funeral. Dad and I rode in an Illinois Central smoking car back to the University so I could take my final exams which began the day after mom’s funeral.

A year later, doctors discovered a spot on my father’s left lung during routine x-rays for his place of employment (Dad worked in a factory and they required annual x-rays). Dad’s doctor advised the removal of the left lung as soon as possible. Of course, that would mean dad could never smoke again. Dad did not want to have the surgery but I talked him into it. I begged and pleaded. I told dad I had lost one parent and did not want to lose another. He had the surgery to please me.

The spot on Dad’s lung proved benign. He didn’t need the surgery after all. But he couldn’t smoke with only one lung. So he began drinking. He blamed me for taking the only joy he had left in his life away from him. I tried to get him interested in dating or reading or doing anything that would occupy his mind. All he wanted to do was drink himself into oblivion.

Dad died at age 64, two months before his sixty-fifth birthday and mandatory retirement from the factory where he had worked for more than forty years (working was the last pleasure dad had in life, and his work soon would be taken away from him, too). He suffered a massive heart attack while shoveling snow from his sidewalks in 1968. I helped the funeral director carry my father’s body out to the hearse.

My father died of a broken heart, and so did Gretta.

Gretta developed her heart condition after her mother was diagnosed with cancer. Gretta’s father made Gretta feel guilty for not moving back home to care for her mother, and he continued to harass Gretta after Gretta’s mother died. Gretta internalized the anger her father cultivated. That anger ate her up inside and eventually killed her. I found Gretta dead on the bathroom floor when I awoke on the morning of January 31, 2012.

Internalized guilt and anger are killers. They kill more people than smoking and guns combined.

After Gretta died, I internalized my own guilt and anger. The only things that saved me from self-destruction were smoking and writing.

I was a degreed psychologist and therapist for 20 years. I know a rationalization when I hear it. My reasons for smoking are all just made-up justifications for my emotional attachment to tobacco.

So now you know why I still smoke tobacco and don’t intend to stop. Everyone I loved who didn’t smoke died. Those who smoked died of broken hearts, not from smoking.

The two things that keep my heart from breaking are writing and smoking. Please don’t ask me to quit doing either.

And please do not try to make me feel guilty for smoking. I feel guilty enough already. Guilt leads to anger, and anger kills.

Some of my best friends are characters

Sledgehammer cover (series)

Sledgehammer is Book 8 in my Instruments of Death series of suspense thrillers from the Gordian Knot imprint of Crossroad Press. I like Sledgehammer a lot, and I think you’ll like Sledgehammer, too. You don’t have to read the other 7 novels first. You can start anywhere in the series and have a good read.

But once you read Sledgehammer I hope you’re hooked. Even as the author, I found myself wanting to go back to earlier novels because the characters have developed such interesting interrelationships.

Jackhammer is the next novel in this series. By the time one novel sees print, I’ve already finished the first drafts of several more novels. What I love about reading and writing is that you get to meet such interesting fictional people and travel to other locales and even other worlds and other dimensions. But West Riverdale is one of my favorite places, and Troy, Andy, Connie, Linda, Sally, Rat, and George have become some of my best friends.

For Kindle:  http://www.amazon.com/Sledgehammer-Instruments-Death-Book-8-ebook/dp/B01DQYO2PA/

 

For Nook or e-reader:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sledgehammer-paul-dale-anderson/1123620570?ean=2940157922009

 

A. R. Morlan 1958-2016

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, would by any other name smell as sweet.” Romeo and Juliet, Act II, scene 2.

A. R. Morlan died this week. Ana was a writer, someone whose stories appeared often beside mine in magazines or anthologies. We were friends of sorts because we both wrote horrific tales, both lived in the Great Midwest (Morlan in Wisconsin and I in Illinois), and we both loved cats.

A. R. Morlan and I corresponded in the 1980s and 1990s when we still wrote everything by typewriter and sent mail via the post office (I began to also use a computer in 1988, but Morlan—not unlike Jerry Williamson—never felt comfortable with an electronic keyboard and continued to use a manual typewriter exclusively). The first novels to bear our by-lines appeared in print about the same time, and we kept busy writing our third and fourth novels while churning out short stories right and left. God was in His heaven, and all was right with the world. Then tragedies began befalling both of us.

For some strange reasons, Morlan began calling me Paul Dean (I think she confused me with Dean Koontz or C. Dean Andersson) and I began calling her Arlene. Arlene Campbell, for those of you who have not yet read A. R. Morlan’s The Amulet, was “dutchess of the Dumpsters, queen of Ewert Avenue, and the dowager of debris.” That, in retrospect, is probably an apt description of A. R. Morlan.

When I learned of Morlan’s suicide and the mysterious disappearance of her mother and Ana’s subsequent legal difficulties, I began putting two and two together until an entire Fibonacci sequence unfolded before my eyes. There were clues in many of Morlan’s Ewerton stories that foretold the tragedy of her life and death. I reread Morlan’s letters and Christmas cards, reread The Amulet and Dark Journey, and reread selected stories. Her entire life is there, spelled out in graphic detail, hidden among the names she chose for her characters.

I wish I had known A. R. Morlan better during her lifetime. She was a complex person whose stories were her life, and many of her stories were brilliant.

So goodbye Ana, Anna, Arlene, Arlette, Renee, and all the other names you chose to write under or become. Thanks for the nightmares.

I’m in ecstasy!

Today was the official publication date of Winds: A Novel, and I’m ecstatic.

I began writing Winds (working titles “Whispers on the Wind” and “Written on the Wind”) in 1979. The first draft featured Philip Ashur, the main protagonist of a planned series of supernatural fantasies I tentatively titled “Cast Away Stones”. Over the next 35 years, Philip Ashur evolved into the villainous behind-the-scenes manipulator you’ll meet in Winds.

Ashur could astral travel. He learned the precious secret more than 8,000 years ago in the Indus Valley. Philip Ashur wasn’t originally a bad man. In his own way, he was quite heroic. Like all mortals, however, Ashur wanted a way to not only prolong his life but to accumulate incredible knowledge and wealth he could take with into his next lives. Ashur’s fatal flaw was he didn’t care what he had to do nor whom he had to hurt to accomplish his goal. I sought to follow Ashur’s quest for immortality, omniscience, and omnipotence through multiple reincarnations. I think I have done that in Winds. Spoiler alert: Ashur will return next year in Stones.

I pitched the idea to my agent Barbara Puechner in 1989. Barb said she thought Stones and Winds would be my break-out novels. She encouraged me to continue developing those stories. But, she said, editors wanted me to also produce the kind of horror and police procedurals I was already known for, and that’s what I did.

I worked on Winds and wrote a few short stories for anthologies and magazines while Barb took time out to deal with family and personal health issues. Gretta, my wife, also had family and personal health issues in the early to mid 1990s, and I experienced my own health crisis and close brush with death in 1996 and 1997. I didn’t try to find another agent nor attempt to market any of my novels on my own when Barbara Puechner died. I had nearly fifty novels—science fiction, fantasy, horror, westerns, and mysteries—in various stages of completion when Gretta died in January of 2012. If I wanted to see any of those novels in print before I also died, I needed to get busy. I completed twenty 100,000 word novels and began work on several more between January 2012 and November 2015.

4 agents and six respected editors expressed interest in my work, but none wanted to tackle the Winds series. David Niall Wilson at Crossroad Press agreed to reprint my previously published horror novels and short story collections, and David said he also wanted to publish all of my original horror and police procedural novels. I revised those manuscripts and Crossroad Press has been successfully publishing them as e-books for the last two years.

Eldritch Press published Abandoned, the first novel in the Winds-series, in March 2015. I pitched Abandoned as a stand-alone novel to several small presses, and Eldritch was the first to offer me a contract. I wanted to see how Eldritch marketed the book before I offered them the rest of the Winds novels. I’m glad I waited.

Because Eldritch Press did little or no marketing, I revived the 2AM Publications imprint Gretta and I had founded back in 1985. 2AM published Darkness in June, Light in September, and Winds in October. Winds was still in the hands of a traditional publisher in May 2015. The editor loved the novel but the publisher saw no place in their list for a novel with a reincarnation theme. When I received their rejection, I was thrilled. 2AM would publish the novel. If Eldritch Press does not renew their contract for Abandoned, 2AM will publish a new edition of Abandoned late next year.

Likewise, the editors who have considered Spilled Milk for nearly two years without offering me a contract, are out of luck. 2AM Publications will publish Spilled Milk in November 2015.

Some people have cautioned me against publishing too many titles in a single year. When you’re 71 years old and have been writing novels for fifty years and few of your titles are in currently print, you don’t want to wait. And you sure as hell don’t want to use pseudonyms. Been there, done that. I want all of my new books to be published with my byline.

I write every day from 9 AM until 2 PM, and again from 10 PM until 2 AM. I produce at least a thousand words a day of fresh fiction. I write four novels a year with time to do revisions and minimal marketing. Writing has taken over my life.

Although I have had ten new novels appear in 2015, those novels were written long ago and recently revised. I have another forty novels—some in first drafts, many in second and third drafts, and a few in partials with detailed outlines and synopses—in progress. And I have one or two brand new novels on the drawing boards.

I also have a couple of hundred trunk stories I’ll get around to revising for magazines or short story collections.

I have no idea when Damnation Books will publish Deviants. That novel has been under contract for more than a year and no publication date has yet been set.

I have news for all the agents and publishers who said reincarnation doesn’t sell: Reincarnation is the next big thing, bigger even than zombies. During the twenty-plus years that I was a professional hypnotist and past-life regression therapist, I regressed thousands of people who discovered their own past lives. I was completely booked up at conferences, and even today I get people requesting past life sessions every week (I tell them to buy my books instead). True, there are many people who are turned off at the thought that their karma will follow them even after death. The main selling point of Christianity is forgiveness for one’s sins. The fact that one is responsible for one’s actions and must suffer the consequences for everything one does is reprehensible to those people. They’re entitled to their beliefs. I pity them when they stand before their God and must account for what they have done with their talents. They’ll be up the proverbial creek without a paddle. Crying “Forgive me for I have sinned” just ain’t gonna cut it.

Winds is fiction. It’s a suspense thriller. You can read Winds as a stand-alone novel or as part of a series. The same is true of Abandoned, Darkness, Light, Time, and Stones.

I did something completely different with Spilled Milk. Part of that forthcoming novel is written in first person from a female’s POV. Part of Spilled Milk is written in third person from male POVs. Like the rest of my novels, Spilled Milk is not for everyone. It’s filled with graphic depictions of rape, murder, and mutilation and is meant as a cautionary tale. If you’re offended by graphic violence, please do not read Spilled Milk.

Read Winds instead. Then read Darkness, Light, and Abandoned. You’ll be glad you did.

On Death and Dying

I couldn’t help but notice, while doing final page proofs of Light, my current preoccupation with death.

Death is my stock in trade. I’ve been a horror writer for more than a quarter century, and my Instruments of Death series of police procedurals examines the manner and means of death in graphic detail. So do my other novels and most of my short stories.

Death stalks us all every day of our lives. Death is the Great Mystery.

I began to explore death itself in the Winds-series of supernatural suspense novels that starts with Abandoned.

Abandoned was published last March by Eldritch Press. Darkness appeared in June from 2AM Publications. Light is scheduled to see print in September and Winds will come out at the end of October. Time will debut in March of 2016. Mysterious Ways and Daughters of Nyx will be out next summer. These are all stand-alone novels with some recurring characters I’ve learned to love. Each novel is around 120,000 words. That’s nearly a million words devoted to the themes of death, dying, and rebirth.