Cold Moons and Back-Alley Abortions

I’ve got some bad news which is probably good news in the long run: I’m pushing back the release date for Corpus Evil. There are a hundred reasons for doing this, but the best reason is it’s simply going to be a lot better. I think I was also on the road to a nervous breakdown.

So consider the bevy of memorable characters Michael McDowell has introduced to me so far: the dimwitted Dean Howell, whose rifle explodes in his face shortly before he’s shipped off to The Vietnam War; he somehow becomes a dreadful presence in The Amulet even though he spends the entire novel in a coma, his face wrapped in bandages. His wife Sarah, who was too good for Dean to begin with, has to suffer the wrath of her lazy, gluttonous mother-in-law, Jo Howell. Jo blames everyone but herself for what has happened to Dean and it just so happens she has the means of making them pay.

Cold Moon Over Babylon introduced Jerry and Margaret Larkin, downtrodden siblings who were raised by their tired grandmother after their parents happened upon a sack of rattlesnakes. The family dynamics here feel like McDowell Lite, as if he were practicing for the larger and much more endearing cast of characters he would put on parade in The Elementals, which includes the comically cynical Luker McCray and his mischievous teenage daughter, India; I especially enjoyed the moments in which India’s foul-mouthed nature conflicted with her alcoholic grandmother, Big Barbara McCray, a southern aristocrat who dazzlingly skims the surface of Predictable Stereotype.

Gilded Needles

So it was inevitable I would read Gilded Needles this week, having no idea who or what McDowell would introduce next. (Summaries be damned, I’ve been going into his stories blind ever since I read the first one.) How do you top the Howells and the McCrays? How could it possibly get any better?

For the first time in my experience, McDowell moves his setting out of Alabama and into the dark, depressing streets of 1800s New York. Opium dens. Whorehouses. Highly illegal abortion operations. It’s the characters who live in this fully realized squalor who become the morally ambiguous heroes of Gilded Needles. The story pits Black Lena Shanks against Judge James Stallworth, the latter of whom has sentenced three of Lena’s family members to death. In retaliation, Lena’s family of misfits send the judge and his family invitations to their own funerals.

The supernatural elements are gone, but the gleeful absurdity of The Amulet kind of returns as the two families square off. I wouldn’t say it’s quite as fun as The Elementals, but it’s pretty damn close and it’s a helluva lot darker. There’s something especially satisfying about the huge cast of ruthless characters and how far they’ll go to exact their revenge on people who simply disliked them because they weren’t born into the same social class. Why so many of McDowell’s books stayed out of print for so long, I’ll never know, but let’s hope they’re here to stay.

Because I read and unexpectedly enjoyed Michael Crichton’s Sphere last week, I thought I’d check out the movie which was based on it. This was a mistake. I can’t remember the last time I watched such a dull, mediocre movie. I find it amazing that an actress as talented as Sharon Stone can appear in movies like this and appear to be both bored and incompetent. Samuel L. Jackson, who’s almost always interesting, also disappoints.

How do you make a story about a giant squid boring? By reducing the squid’s role almost entirely, that’s how. I’m sure it was probably because of budgetary reasons, but the film supposedly cost around $80 million, long before that kind of budget was the norm, so it’s a bit of a head-scratcher that it should feel so cheap and small. This is The Abyss re-imagined without any of the awe, excitement, or groundbreaking special effects.

Hellraiser Judgment, Skull Island, and The Cloverfield Paradox

Yeah, I’m still alive. Work has been busier than it’s been in ages, my girlfriend and I are remodeling our kitchen (extensively), and I’m still working on Corpus Evil. I haven’t forgotten the blog, it’s just low on my list of priorities at the moment, which sucks because I’d rather be doing this than most things.

So I saw Hellraiser Judgment today. I only fell asleep once.

The prologue is a promising ten minutes of gore-filled debauchery. Maybe it’s because the bar was set so low by the other direct-to-video sequels (I believe there were, like, a thousand of them), but it felt relatively fresh for a franchise that was always better in its idea department than in execution. I even began to think I was in for a fun stupid movie as opposed to a plain ol’ stupid movie.

My first problem (of many) is the same problem I had with the earlier sequels: Pinhead gets a little too much dialogue. (Come to think of it, that was one of my problems with Clive Barker’s The Scarlet Gospels, which I kind of suspect was ghostwritten by someone else.) I don’t care what makes Pinhead tick because I just don’t want that particular veil of mystery lifted. It’s the same reason I’ve never read the Hannibal prequel: some villains are much more interesting without a backstory and monologues. Pinhead has become so pedestrian as of late.

Thankfully there’s a new villain who retains his mystique and his name is The Auditor. Like a cross between Yul Brynner’s role in Westworld and the bad guy from Highway to Hell, he’s a formidable screen presence played by an actor who’s far better than any of the other leads. His face covered with scars and sunglasses as black as welding goggles, he bores intimidation directly into the soul of any mortal foolish enough to cross his path… okay, maybe I’m laying it on a little thick, but trust me: the first ten minutes of Judgment are a blast.

It’s the rest of the movie that stinks to high hell.

If a CSI spin-off is your idea of a good time, you might like Judgment. Hopeful and/or desperate fans of the franchise, on the other hand, are going to be especially disappointed. I’m still wondering why it needed to be a Hellraiser movie in the first place. Like the more recent sequels, it feels like Pinhead was shoved in there just to get tortured fans to shell out money to see it. Unlike the recent sequels, it feels like the supplemental stuff could have made for a decent movie had they been given room to breathe.

I saw Kong: Skull Island and The Cloverfield Paradox, too. Skull Island has gotta be one of the best dumb blockbusters ever made—and believe me: it’s really dumb, going so far as to incorporate Hollow Earth Theory, the proponents of which could even make Flat Earthers cringe. Thankfully, I’m a sucker for giant monster movies (Peter Jackson’s King Kong remake notwithstanding). My brain is telling me not to like this movie, but it’s downright irresistible, even as one helicopter pilot after another repeatedly flies into Kong’s arm reach instead of firing their heavy weaponry from a safe altitude and distance.

The Cloverfield Paradox, on the other hand, sucked almost as bad as Hellraiser Judgment. JJ should really lay off the parallel dimension stuff, which kind of explains key events of the first two films at the expense of failing to explain any of the key events in this film. I fell asleep during this one as well.

I’m getting old, y’all.

98 Days until Corpus Evil!


As usual I’m behind schedule. The holiday madness, ridiculousness at work, and the blog move aren’t helping one bit. I’m still spinning my wheels in part three (I like how I expected to have this section done by “the middle of the week”). The three parts in the middle of Corpus Evil are tightly woven, which means changes in one section cause ripples across the others, but I expect to have them done around the same time. By “done” I mean ready for the girlfriend inspection, at which point it’s going to be ready for other pre-release readers.

Amazon pre-orders for Corpus Evil will probably begin in January. I wasn’t aware you couldn’t list Amazon pre-orders more than 90 days in advance of the release date, which doesn’t feel like enough time to gain steam there. Frankly—and this is coming from someone who uses Amazon regularly—it’s troubling that the retailer has so much of the market under its thumb. There are certainly a lot of benefits, but how long will it be before they impose the same level of idiotic censorship on indie books as they do indie movies?

To be clear, Corpus Evil is far from the “extreme” variety of indie books in my opinion, but it hardly feels like my opinion would matter to the bastards whose guidelines made Samurai Cop 2 unwatchable on their VOD service. Not that I’m certain that movie would have been very watchable to begin with (I’m not a big fan of self-aware B-movies), but that’s beside the point.

When do you stop revising? [Corpus Evil]

Corpus Evil is told in five parts, beginning in 1982 and ending in the far future. I had planned on a single week of revisions for each part, but the first two parts took me months. I’ve just begun to revise part three of the story, but so far it’s going much better than parts one and two did. In fact, I think I’ll have it whipped into shape by the middle of the week.

And that’s a question I used to struggle with: How do you know you’re done with the first round of revisions? Lately, the answer is when I’m ready to show it to my girlfriend. After she’s done reading the book it’s going off to the beta readers. After that, I plan to use pre-orders to judge how much money I want to spend on editorial services, at which point I hope most of the developmental stuff will be done.

I still don’t have a marketable description for Corpus Evil, but I’ll talk a little more about it here. It was originally intended to be a short story about a group of teenagers who uncover an ancient evil in an abandoned church camp. Considering I had just spent five or six years working on an absurdly complicated science fiction novel, the story was extremely easy to write by comparison. (The biggest problem with the science fiction novel was I never set deadlines or limits on the revision period… the damn thing just ballooned and ballooned after the first draft was completed. I learned a lot, but I suspect I wasted a lot of my time, too.)

Immediately after finishing the short story, which was called Church Camp at the time, I began working on another short story. About two pages into it I realized the main character of the new story could be one of the survivors from the previous story, all grown up. Once again, the story nearly wrote itself. Meanwhile, I began to wonder: What happened to the other survivors?

I think the most honest ending in a horror movie was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which leaves its heroine screaming at the brink of irreparable insanity. Events like that tend to fuck people up. If your characters are mentally unscathed by the end of your horror tale, you’re either cheating your audience or kidding yourself.

The first part of Corpus Evil is the massacre, so to say. The rest of the book explores what happens next.

Corpus Evil is coming April 1st, 2018.

Corpus Evil is OOZING into retailers now!

Corpus Evil ($2.99) is now available to pre-order on Barnes & Noble and Kobo! Other major retailers coming soon! Please excuse the use of exclamation points! Apparently I’m supposed to use them now!

Corpus Evil releases on April 1st, 2018 (Easter Sunday) with the next book coming out the following September (Labor Day). Which means that, for the first time in my life, I’m actually on strict deadlines for my writerly duties. These self-imposed deadlines have actually benefited my writing habits, but I still don’t know what the next book is going to be about… it’s currently a toss-up between a horror story and a weird science fiction/fantasy/western/post-apocalyptic thing. All I know is I start the first draft on December 28th and I hope to have the promotional stuff ready by the time Corpus Evil goes on sale.

To give you an idea of what the deadlines look like: it took well over a month to get the first part of Corpus Evil into shape, but to stick to my schedule I’ll only have around a week for each of the remaining four parts. I also have to convert this blog to HTTPS, spend a little more time on social media, and work on other promotion-related boring stuff. This is a terrifying prospect for someone who’s an introvert six days out of the week, but it looks like I’ll be joining Facebook soon.

In the meantime, feel free to follow me on my Instagram and Twitter accounts! I’ll try (and probably fail) to be more active!

Corpus Evil coming April 1st, 2018


An immortal cult. A shamed priest. A killer robot. What do they have in common?

Levi could talk his friends into anything. When he convinces the gang to spend a night in the abandoned church camp he vaguely remembers from his childhood, he discovers some memories are better left alone. There he awakens an evil which will haunt the survivors for the rest of their lives.

Corpus Evil is a terrifying story told in five parts, spanning from 1982 to the far future.

Smashwords listing.


$2.99, available pretty much wherever e-books are sold.

Release Date

April 1st, 2018.

Review Copies

If you have a blog or anything like that, review copies will go out sometime in March. I’ll send you a free e-book with no obligation to review, no questions asked.

More info to come. I’ll have a meatier synopsis up soon.