Monday, December 9, 2013

The 11th Demon Surfaces! Bruce Hennigan Interview!

Welcome back! We're here today with a special guest: author Bruce Hennigan--a huge monster kid as well as the author of the "Christian Horror" Jonathan Steel Chronicles. Often described as a sort of "Jason Bourne versus demons" this is a wild series that doesn't pull the punches on its creatures. Bruce and I served in the trenches at Charisma Media and he's been incredibly supportive of my work over the years. I love having him drop by and I'm super excited that this week marks the release of his new monsterpiece The 11th Demon: The Ark of Chaos!

Greg Mitchell: Bruce, welcome back! Tell us what you've been up to since our last interview!

Bruce Hennigan: I have just released my third book in the Chronicles of Jonathan Steel, The 11th Demon: The Ark of Chaos. Its been just over a year since the second book came out. Since then, Ive switched publishers and it was a real struggle to get the third book to the marketplace. But, with this new publisher came a new freedom to expand my story beyond word count limits imposed by my previous publisher. So, it gave me a freedom to write the book I would want to read, not a book that had to fit very narrow parameters.

Starting over with a new publishing venture is always difficult. You have to convince the new guys that this aint my first rodeo and, as a published author, I kind of know what to do. Still, its really hard work to bring a new publisher in on something that I am so passionate about. Ive spent the past six years with my main character Jonathan Steel so I know the potential of my book series. Selling that anew to the next publisher is always a challenge.

GM: Don't I know it! :p

BH: I also have signed a contract with B&H Publishing to release an update to my book, "Conquering Depression. My co-author, Mark Sutton and I have finished the updated manuscript and the new book will be released in the fall of 2014 as Hope Again: A 30 Day Plan for Conquering Depression. So, lets just say Im still working very hard on writing, publishing, marketing, editing, blogging, tweeting, and building a platform to promote the new depression book and my continuing Chronicles of Jonathan Steel all while trying to keep up with my day job as a physician in the field of radiology. And, in this day and age of Obamacare, it isnt easy being a physician!

GM: Busy indeed! On to the new book. Jonathan Steel is back for another round with Hell's worst. What's in store for him this time around?

BH: The third book, The 11th Demon: The Ark of Chaos is the next step in Steels battle against the demons on the Council of Darkness. In the second book, The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon, Steel finds a new partner in Theophilus King and the court mandates that Steel and his mentor, Dr. Cephas Lawrence are now guardians of Cephas nephew, Josh Knight. The four of them go back to Louisiana only to discover that Cephas has purchased a new home for his collection of evil artifacts and that home was the house once owned by Robert Ketrick, the host for the 13th demon in my first book, The 13th Demon: Altar of the Spiral Eye.

Steel isnt too happy about moving into Ketricks old house but they have no choice because it doesnt take long for the next demon on the Council to move in on the territory of the 12th Demon, banished to hell in the second book. Soon, the 11th Demon shows up on the scene and takes on the demonic form of a chimera, a monster with the head of a goat, the head of lioness, the body of a lion, and a fire breathing serpent for a tail.

Of course, Steels old nemesis, Vivian Darbonne Ketrick is back searching for an artifact from Ketricks collection of evil torture devices known as the Ark of the Demon Rose. Steel doesnt realize what is still hidden within the walls of Ketricks old house!  With the Ark, she hopes to control the Council of Darkness and force the members to give her a seat at the table. But, the 11th Demon has plans for the Ark. And soon, a new force of evil arises in competition for the Ark, a remnant of a once secret society from the time of the early church. This secret sect practices magic and misdirection and doesnt flinch when it comes to killing off anyone who stands in its way.

Steel is soon dropped right into the middle of this mixture of evil and chaos and must confront the 11th Demon before he can open the Ark and release chaos on the world.

GM: Wow! Talk about action-packed! How has reception been on the series so far? Has that affected the direction you've taken the series?

BH: I am so blessed to have a very dedicated following. I get emails every week asking for the next book in the series. Switching to a new publisher always brings a delay of two years between books, so I have had to push very hard to release the third book within a year of the last book to please my fans. I can tell you that encouragement from my former editor, Andy Meisenheimer, and encouragement from my readers has allowed me to make my book series fresher and more scary than I ever thought I could get away with. In fact, I have taken some chances with my story line and with my characters because I feel safe with my readers.

With this new found freedom, Ive upped the scare quotient, so to speak. No gratuitous violence or gore, but the store has more gripping and realistic elements. In a way, Ive gained some freedom to take the series in a direction Ive always wanted. Youll be able to tell this in the latest book when we see the once stalwart and righteous Cephas Lawrence makes some very questionable choices near the end of the book that will come back to haunt him later on.

GM: You've spoken a bit about switching publishers and a new sense of freedom it's given you in a storytelling sense. What other changes has the changeover brought about?

BH: You know, Greg, I find it interesting that a few years back, Michael Hyatt, the former CEO of Thomas Nelson made the statement that Christian speculative fiction (CSF) was the fastest growing sub-genre. Unfortunately, this in no longer true if you look at the sales numbers and talk to authors like the two of us who have been burned on our prior contracts.

This past February, I had the good fortune of attending the PLATFORM conference and sit next to Michael. We discussed what I call the implosion of CSF at major publishers. He wasnt too surprised. He encouraged me to go the route Ive chosen for now, Westbow Press. His advice was to take control of the publishing process for myself as the traditional publishers just dont seem to know how to market CSF. Be an entrepreneur, he said. Go it alone and make it work!

Lets face it, our kind of fiction gets stuck right next to Amish Romances in the Christian fiction section. As a man, I wouldnt darken that shelf with my presence looking for a good, scary book with redemptive values. Id go back over to the horror section. But, our books are labeled Christian fiction and would never be placed where they should be placed in the book store, that is, right next to Stephen Kings works.

Its even more frustrating in the ebook marketplace. Who is going to browse through Christian fiction to find a Christian worldview based book of horror or science fiction or fantasy? CSF is this animal that the readers crave to ingest and yet the online and brick and mortar bookstores dont know how to handle these books. We get lost in the shuffle and so the traditional publishers get burned and even the good ones willing to take a chance on an entire imprint of CSF like Charisma have to make tough business decisions and stop taking on new books and new authors in that genre. It is frustrating as you are all too aware of.

That being said, as I mentioned above, being in the driving seat I can write the book I truly envision without word constraints or reading levels. Westbow is a self publishing entity but they are very robust in imposing some limits on language and content. That being said, I was able to get away with a lot more in my current book that the first two books. One of my characters has an intimate encounter in The 11th Demon and while I did not describe it graphically, I know that previous publishers would not have allowed me to have such a scene no matter how sterile I could make it.

GM: I understand that this is meant to be a 13-book series. I think the last time we spoke, you had it planned up to Book 5. Where are you at now? Any hints at what's to come?

BH: Under my old contract, I had already written the first four books. But, now that I am no longer limited to 75,000 words per book, I can go back and add in content I had to remove. In The 11th Demon: The Ark of Chaos, I brought back a character I took out of the first book and I was able to bring back some flashbacks cut from the first two books. 

GM: Neat!

BH: In fact, this third book is a good settling in type story. The reader gets to know so much more about my characters as I write each scene from a first person point of view from the POV of each of the six major characters.

That being said, I am re-editing the fourth book, The 10th Demon: Children of the Bloodstone back to its original length, almost twice the word limit of the first two books. In so doing, I am able to build the story to a climax that will spin off into a science fiction themed series called The Node of God. Trust me, very few publishers would touch that so Im going it on my own! The first book in that series is titled, The Node of God: Darksyn Rising.

GM: So Jonathan Steel is getting a spinoff series?! I had no idea!

BH: The 10th Demon is about UFOs, extraterrestrials, and one of the coolest monsters Ive ever created. In fact, after a pivotal scene in which Steel has to face off against this creature in a totally dark cave hundreds of feet underground, I had trouble sleeping! I love it!

The fifth book, The 9th Demon: A Wicked Numinosity is partially completed and I am glad I didnt go ahead and finish it while under contract. Im bringing back a major character from the first three books that is, shall we say, presumed dead and the story will culminate at Stonehenge. Lots of paganism, Wicca, alternate reality just to whet the readers whistle.

The sixth book, The 8th Demon: Night of the Skinwalkers is partially completed and takes Steel and company into a totally different direction exploring the creatures and monsters of our own North American Indian heritage.

Someone asked me about zombies and, yes, the seventh book will feature a zombie like creature and explores voodoo in the deep South. In fact, every book in the entire 13 book series is outlined and ready for me to settle in and write. Of course, story elements will change as I complete the individual books but my over arching story is canon. I have already written the third to last book as it reveals ALL of Steels lost memories and sets up the final two books.

So, you see, Greg, I have lots of stories left in the Chronicles of Jonathan Steel. The first four books will complete an over arching story that will set the stage for what I call Phase 2, the next four books in which we learn some very disturbing history of our main character, Jonathan Steel. The reader will NOT like where these books are going, I guarantee it! But, if they hang with me through the last books in the series, I will bring it all around to a satisfying conclusion.

Once this series is done, I am already planning Steels next adventures as a private investigator. Think of Night Stalker meets Fringe! So, no rest for the weary. 

GM: Wow, this is all really exciting. I had no idea how extensive you had this series planned.

BH: This is why I need anyone interested in these types of stories to please, please, buy OUR books! Show the industry that we have a following. Lets shock them into reality. Unleash the monsters! Yeah!

GM: Hey, I'm all for more monster fiction :) Speaking of which: Lots of supernatural shows on TV these days! It seems that there's an explosion of horror genre television. Even the mainstream audiences are being pulled into, what is generally described as, a niche market. What do you think the draw is to the horror genre? Why can't we turn away?

BH: Greg, I am an apologist, or one who defends the truthfulness of the Christian faith, and Ive been asked this type of question many, many times. Why are we so obsessed with the immortal evil monsters? Why is it that we refuse to believe in God, but we glut ourselves on zombies and vampires and werewolves?

It boils down to a simple need. We crave a connection with the divine, with the eternal. Our God shaped vacuum is there because as Paul wrote in Romans, we are without excuse for refusing to believe in God. The evidence of His existence is overwhelming. When we look at the creation we see Gods fingerprint everywhere. And yet, in our current self centered, me absorbed, hedonistic, narcissistic society we refuse to submit ourselves to the authority of a Creator. We have chosen to be our own gods. Again, Paul predicted this in Romans

And yet, we crave the eternal. Since we have abandoned the truth of the Scriptures and God, we must find something to fill that void. Enter the vampire; the zombie; the dark creatures of the night that eclipse the good in our souls. We find them repulsive and yet alluring. And, we try to recreate them in a lighter image Twilight for instance. No wonder stories about these lite” version forms of the evil creatures fail. They can never exist in the light. We cant drag them out of the shadows without revealing their true nature. And, when we look into the face of pure evil, it serves to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt there is pure good and that comes only from God. His existence is inescapable and these lesser forms of immortality are faint echoes of the reality of Gods existence.

And thus, we are caught suspended between darkness and light refusing to accept the goodness of God and willing to embrace the darkness of the shadowy creatures of our imaginations; our vain thoughts; our arcane inner self. Sorry, I wax profound or profane, depending on how you look at it.

I think this is why CSF is SO important right now. We can write about these creatures in the context of redemption; silhouetted against the light of God. We can bring a glimmer of hope to the endless desperation around us. Press on, I say. We MUST continue to write about the dark creatures of our souls only so we can point our readers to the light of the Savior!

GM: Good insights. You and I are on the same level when it comes to our love of monsters. Seen any good monster movies lately--whether they be newer ones or older ones?

BH: The last 12 months have seen some interesting movies. I enjoyed Pacific Rim better than I had anticipated. I managed to get through RIPD and it wasnt too terribly bad. Of course, we have the main stream Hobbit and its monsters and Im looking forward to Smaug. Thor had a few monstrous creatures. World War Z was better than Id hoped but the zombies were merely fast moving, mind herd zombies.

But, Id say my favorite guilty pleasure so far is Sleepy Hollow.

GM: Me, too! I find myself unable to turn away, ha ha. 

BH: I love the demonic creatures, Sulu with his head on backwards and the Headless Horseman yeah! What a strange show but I cant miss an episode! The new Dracula is still up in the air for me. I like that it brings back the true evil nature of vampires and the luscious set pieces are great backdrop. Im just not sure where the story, so bizarre, is heading. I am looking forward to Helix, the new Syfy show set in Antarctica. Shades of The Thing, I hope.

And, I am a Whovian obsessed with Doctor Who. I and my daughter dressed up as characters for the 50th anniversary movie in our area. Doctor Who has some interesting monsters. The creature from Hide, the haunted house story was promising but ultimately turned out to be (spoilers, sweetie!) a spurned lover. A return to the Ice Warriors showed promise. And, of course, there are always the Daleks! Exterminate! Im looking forward to the return of the Silence, the Cybermen, and my favorite Who monster, the weeping angels in the Christmas special. Geronimo!

GM: Time to sell some books. Where can folks pick up the new Jonathan Steel adventure?

BH: You can check out my own website, and order the books at a discount. Ill ship them. Or, you can find all three books, including the newest, The 11th Demon: The Ark of Chaos at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and its available as an ebook through both vendors. You can get your local bookstore to order it.

Thanks for having me on your site, Greg. Its been a pleasure.

GM: It was great to have you back, Bruce, and super informative. I can't wait to read The 11th Demon and I'm pleasantly surprised and very intrigued about the plans you have for this series. Your passion is certainly an inspiration to me in my own writing, sir :)

That's it for this one, folks. Check out Bruce's books. The man writes from the heart and a real love for his subject matter. As for me, it's back to my cave and more writing, writing, writing!

'Til next time!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Journey of Rediscovery

Sure has been pretty quiet around here. So, what's the deal?

Well, I'll tell ya. After the release of Dark Hour back in February, The Coming Evil Trilogy is at a close. It might seem strange to many, but I began this whole "writer thing" with one and only goal: See The Coming Evil Trilogy completed. And now it is.

Now I find myself with a bit of Empty Nest syndrome. I finished my baby (and a few other REALLY exciting projects that I can't discuss just yet) and now I'm left with a lot more free time on my hands. I'm still writing, of course. In fact, I'm working on three novels at the moment--one of them being my sequel to last year's Rift Jump. But I'm working at a much slower pace these days. I'm finding that I'm on nobody's timetable anymore, but able to create more freely; whenever I'm able to--as I always think of it--"catch a wave". In fact, I'm finding, these days, more of a return to my roots. I'm putting less words down on paper and, instead, I'm focusing on just imagining. I'm working on three books, but they're all in their infancy. They could go in any number of ways. I've known how The Coming Evil was going to end for over a decade, but I'm at a fresh beginning, now, and I'm not sure how some of these stories are going to end. The possibilities are limitless, and that's exciting and a bit daunting all at the same time. But it's affording me the joy of discovery again, as I meet new characters and learn all about them.

Also, I'm enjoying the rest. I love writing, but I'm not a fan of publishing. All the business and the hand-shaking and the marketing and social media--all of that. That's never been me and, while I think I'm able to turn it on and "perform" when need be, I can't be one of these career bloggers that's so focused on building my social media empire of celebrity that I lose all sight of doing what I love: telling stories.

So things are going to be a lot quieter around here for a time. There will be posts, sure. I've already got an interview lined up in the coming weeks with a returning favorite. But, if it's all the same to you, I'm going to enjoy my quiet time. I've spent a lot more time with my kids, spent a lot more time just enjoying life again. I've got some stories left in me that I'm dying to share with you all and we'll get there in due time. And, while The Coming Evil Trilogy is finished...I'm already planning my return trip to Greensboro. That's, perhaps, got me most excited of all these days. I've not written word one on that particular story, but--like Stephen King once put it, in regards to his magnum opus The Dark Tower--I'm finding the doors to that world again, in some unique and exciting places. I couldn't even begin to speculate when that story will be done, except to know that it'll be finished much like its big brother The Coming Evil was; all in God's timing. But I'm not thinking of publishing right now. Much like I was in the beginning of my writing journey, I'm just enjoying the writing process again.

For now, that's enough for me.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

It's that time of year again--a time of mystery and excitement, of candy and costumes and monster movies. It's that time where, for one night a year, the rest of the world comes around to my way of thinking, enjoying my favorite genre ;)

As with every year, I've seen my fair share of posts and articles written by some of my Christian brothers and sisters denouncing the holiday and listing all of its pagan origins. Like every year, I've resisted writing my own massive write-up defending Halloween up until this point, because I get exhausted just thinking about it. Yet, I'm going to give it a try, not by discussing where Halloween came from (and it's a LOT of different customs and certainly not all of them pagan), but what it means today. What it's always meant to me.

First and foremost, Christ was (most likely) NOT born Christmas morn. Christmas has just as much--if not more--pagan origins as Halloween, and yet the Church has "redeemed" that holiday. So why not Halloween?

I think the bottom line is that people fear Halloween for the same reasons they fear the terror genre: Because it deals with monsters, ghosts, and goblins. All ghastly, unpleasant things that are spoken AGAINST in the Bible. This year, I received a pamphlet from a local church telling me that, if I were participating in Halloween, I was breaking the commandment not to summon and speak to the dead. If I were holding a seance on October 31st, I would agree with them. But, in the Mitchell home, no ghosts, spirits, or devils are being prayed to, conjured, or otherwise contacted.

The monsters of Halloween and the monsters of my favorite films are just not real. It's fantasy. More than that, perhaps, it's an artform. Haven't you been watching Face Off on the Syfy Channel? Watch as these artists craft the most terrifying and ghoulish makeups. It's fascinating! But, more importantly, it's all fake. No real monsters, here, guys. Just the images of them. Powerful images that, I believe, serve a purpose. But more on that in a minute.

I also read an article this year that assured me that a coven of witches gathered at all the candy factories and pronounced curses over every--yes, every!--bag of "Halloween candy" (how can you tell the difference between a Reese's given in honor of the occasion and an old bag leftover from September?) to administer to unsuspecting boys and girls to bring demons into their lives. Of course, I've also heard of preachers in the past revealing to their congregations that rock bands such as KISS prayed to Satan over every single CD before it went to stores--yes, every single CD! That must have taken a long time!!

Look, I don't want to belittle another believer's convictions, but guys this is just silly. Most importantly, it's superstitious. Wasn't it in 1 Timothy 4:7 where we're instructed to "Have nothing to do with myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourselves to be godly"? I hear this verse quoted to warn AGAINST Halloween and yarn-spinnin', but I rather see it as a means of calming down the hysteric masses that believe there is some type of demonic conspiracy by candy factories to break down the Christian home.

I've heard testimonies of believers who were once caught up in the occult and this year is a painful reminder of their old bonds. As I've said in the past regarding the horror genre--if that is your experience, then by all means avoid it. I wouldn't encourage a recovering alcoholic to work in a bar. But, in keeping with that metaphor, the Bible doesn't say that it's wrong for Christians to drink--only wrong for them to get drunk. I feel the same can be said of Halloween night and the world of scary stories. Enjoy it, but don't over indulge. Dress up like ghouls, but don't actually start seeking to contact them. Draw that line between fantasy and reality and adhere to the real. 

So what are Christians to do about Halloween? In my experience, people get so caught up in the trappings of the holiday, or horror as a genre, and they see this frightening outer covering, but they never take the time to look underneath the mask to discover the REAL reason people are attracted to these things. I won't deny that Halloween is a macabre occasion. No other holiday is celebrated by televised marathons of endless movies of young virgins being chased by guys in hockey masks or bloodthirsty vampires. I turn it on Sirius satellite radio this time every year for the awesome old songs like The Monster Mash, but I also have to contend with the monotonous and sometimes annoying sound effect tracks of screams and moans and weeping. Not very celebratory! We're essentially celebrating death, right?

But where the detractors get it wrong, I believe, is that we're not worshiping death and darkness (well, I'm sure someone is, but most of us aren't). No, for one night a year, we face it, with eyes open. We talk about death, we share ghost stories, we dress like the things that frighten us. We adorn our houses in images of the grave and fright. This isn't a night to be afraid, though, this is a night to confront those things that terrify us the other 364 days of the year. For one glorious night, we look those monsters square in the eye--and then we exchange candy! We laugh, we run, we shout, we crow. In a word, friends, we live. We live on this night! In spite of the ghosts and ghouls prowling the streets, we live! We go to the spookiest houses, and the door creaks open, but only to reveal the kind, smiling faces of neighbors we may never talk to other than this night. We connect with our communities; we're sharing a collective experience, connecting to a communal memory of Halloweens past. This is a night of friendship, of family, of hearth and home.

My conclusion is simple: I say open your door to your neighbors tonight. There are children behind those costumes that need love--yes, the love of Christ. This is THEIR night, after all, just as it was yours when you were young and innocent to all the very real terrors of the world. Halloween is a marvelous night when all children are the same. The social or economic lines that divide us are gone for this one night. All they want is a kind smile, an encouraging word, and a handful of candy. I know from my own kids' Halloween experiences that these little ones are out there and some of them are terrified by the creatures they see roaming the darkened streets, but they're out there all the same. They've donned their masks of empowerment and are braving the night, facing death, fighting against their own fears. Reward them with an open heart and a chocolate, for goodness sake. Let them know that there are kind people in this world and that they don't have to be scared. Be there for them.

After all, it's Halloween. :)

Have a safe and happy night!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

R.I.P. "Uncle Phil" Nutman

I've done a lot of reflecting today.

Last night I learned that horror writer--and my friend--Philip Nutman (author of the zombie novel Wet Work) passed away quite unexpectedly. He's been on my mind all day as a flood of memories have come back. I owe Phil a lot. And I mean, a lot.

I met him 10 years ago this Halloween. At the time, I was a fresh-faced writer and horror fan. I'd just read his short-lived run on the Halloween comics back when Chaos! Comics held the Michael Myers licence. I was a huge fan of those books as they were all about continuity and bridging the gap between Halloween 6 and H20. I wrote him and told him as much and expressed that I, too, was a writer and desperately wanted to follow his run on the Halloween books and pick up where he left off. Pretty bold words, but I was in my early twenties and didn't know any better. For his part, Phil was gracious and we were soon speaking on the phone, talking about Halloween, horror, and film. It was Phil who convinced me to get on a plane (for the first time) and fly out to L.A. (also for the first time) to come meet him at the Halloween 25th Anniversary Convention in Pasadena. That convention changed my life and marked my birth as a "serious" writer.

That was Halloween weekend, ten years ago this Halloween. Now Phil's gone. How much has changed in a decade...

When I first met him, he was a manic, disheveled whirlwind, whipping about--and all I could do was hang on and enjoy the ride. And what a ride. He became a mentor to me, calling me his "protege" at parties, while insisting I call him "Uncle Phil". He took me under his wing and introduced me to Hollywood. I learned real quick that everyone knows Phil in the horror community. He never ceased to amaze me with his behind-the-scenes stories for all my favorite horror movies, because he was there, right in thick of it, reporting for Fangoria Magazine. Phil who opened my eyes to the industry and taught me how to conduct myself. He was all bluster and swagger as he deftly navigated celebrities and filmmakers. He was my foul-mouth Obi-Wan Kenobi, and I was in awe of him. He was a horror rock star.

I'm sitting here, at a loss for words. I could fill a novella with all that Phil taught me. All that he's done for me. He served as my unofficial agent for a time, helping me pitch scripts around town. He critiqued my earlier scripts, never afraid to tell me when I'd missed the mark. It was thanks to him I sold my first short story. While that anthology eventually fell apart before publication, the story remained and became "Flowers for Shelly".

Today, I'm tumbling through memories. All the phone calls we had. The times we talked about more important things than writing, like family. Like faith. I remember how he loved to cook, referring to himself as "Chef Philippe", and used to berate me for enjoying McDonalds' so much :) Of all the things that I remember about Phil, the thing I remember most is how kind he was to me, when he had no reason to be. I was a nobody. Not a writer back in those days--just a wannabe. But he was there for me, coaching me, patient with me, doing his very best to see I got my "big break". Oh, he'd yell and curse and was quick to say when something was crap, but when I earned his approval, I knew I'd earned it. And I cherished that. He gave me confidence and made me feel special, and taught me to do the same to others. To be kind and charitable to everyone I met. This is a business of friendships, and I learned that from Phil.

I looked forward to his calls and, while we lost touch in recent years, I'll never forget the impact he made on me--both personally and professionally. I've thanked him a lot over the years, in public and privately, and here I am again, after he's gone, still thinking about him. Still thanking him.

It'll never be enough. Thank you, Uncle Phil.

Monday, September 30, 2013

It's About Time!


Morning, folks.

This has been a day long in coming. I am very happy to announce that my next book--this time a non-fiction reference book--Back in Time: The Unauthorized Back to the Future Chronology is available to purchase! Co-written by Rich Handley and published by Hasslein Books (the fine folks who brought you Timeline of the Planet of the Apes, Lexicon of the Planet of the Apes, and A Matter of Time: The Unauthorized Back to the Future Lexicon--all available here) the book painstakingly chronicles every Back to the Future source. From the movies, to the cartoon, to the comics, to the video games, to random commercials--it's all in there, and cataloged into a cohesive timeline so you can make sense of all the paradoxes and temporal intersections. 

Back in Time is many years in the making as I started writing this BEFORE The Strange Man was even released back in early 2011, so wow! I'm extremely proud of the final product and I think you will be too. It is essential to any fan of Back to the Future, and a perfect gift for the holidays.

Through October, it's available exclusively at, the Official Home of Back to the Future on the internet. Starting in November, you can also find it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  Buy your copy today!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Return of the Bug Hunter

For those of you who were fans of the Avenir Eclectia stories involving my bug hunter Dressler, you're in luck. He's back!

Today on Avenir Eclectia, the first installment in a new journey for Dressler begins with my micro-story "Daddy/Daughter Date". This new story picks up some time after the conclusion of Dressler's last harrowing encounter--that one involving an undersea "angel"--and finds Dressler teaching his daughter Edilyn the bug hunting trade.

This story came about quite by pleasant accident. Friends and fellow AE authors Ed Erdelac and Jeff Carter approached me a while back about having Dressler appear in their individual arcs and asked if that was okay with me. I was thrilled and honored by the suggestion and was excited to kick back and read what they came up with.

Reading their stories, though, stoked a little fire in me and I thought it was time to leave my AE retirement to fill in the blanks of their respective tales, revealing what Dressler has been up to since we last saw him and set up how he gets into Ed and Jeff's stories.

"Daddy/Daughter Date" is the first of a new ride for my favorite bug hunter, so be sure to check it out.

For those who maybe don't know, Avenir Eclectia is a shared universe project where many sci-fi/fantasy/horror authors come together to create micro-fiction to run on the series' website. Eventually those stories are collected in a print version. The first such printed volume is already available and includes my entire first Dressler arc. Buy it today in print or ebook!

Also, click here and here to read a couple old retrospectives I wrote, detailing the inspiration behind Dressler's creation!

Be sure to stop over and read "Daddy/Daughter Date" today and keep your eyes peeled for Ed and Jeff's contribution to a Bug Hunter's tale! And Avenir is always looking for more writers to expand its mythology. So if you're a writer interested in playing in a huge sandbox, check it out and make your submission!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

My First Step Into a Larger World...

In case you missed it, yesterday was a big day for me. I saw the publication of my very first article for the Official Star Wars Blog. It's entitled "The Not-So Magnificent Seven" and shines the spotlight on seven of the Star Wars' galaxy's less successful bounty hunters (like Greedo over there to the left). Featured in the article is my very own creation--the Dusty Duck and her crew, including hapless hunter Rango Tel (you can read the story behind that here).

For this article, I dug deep in the well of obscurity, discovering gems from the old Marvel Star Wars comics published in the late 70s-early 80s, as well as the anthology Tales of the Bounty Hunters. It was an incredible experience dusting off these old characters that have been forgotten by most and giving them a spit-polish and a chance to shine for a little while longer.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Something Weird(er) is Coming

Today over on my pal Bob Freeman's blog, he announced an upcoming project that I'll be involved in. Here's what he had to say:

"Yes, Weirder Tales is coming. In August.

What can you expect? A weekly comic page, free of charge, for starters. Sometimes more, depending on my mood and whatever else I’m juggling at that particular moment.

Who’s involved? Well, there’s me, of course. Writing. Drawing. Editing. And whatnot. We can’t forget whatnot. But also, I’ve already received two scripts (yes, honest to goodness comic scripts) from Grimacing Greg Mitchell, several St. Cyprian stories from Jovial Josh Reynolds, a couple of tales from the keyboard of Wily Willie Meikle, and the promise of fiction from the Tyrannical Tracy DeVore and Marauding Maurice Broaddus. And that’s just for starters (and I didn’t even mention Oddfellows Serenade from myself and Creepy Chris Wilson).

Why? Because we like you. M-O-U-S-E, baby."

Stay tuned for more exciting updates as this project comes together! 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Let's Cast "The Coming Evil"!


I remember back in the day reading Wizard Magazine and always excited to see a feature called "Casting Call" whereby the staff at Wizard had a little fun and cast who they thought would fit best with hypothetical comic book movies.

Well, I thought I would give the same treatment to The Coming Evil Trilogy. Seeing as how this series began as a script (and one day I'd like to see it return to that format, if God so wills), I've always thought of this trilogy in movie terms. So, for fun, we're gonna sit down and cast The Coming Evil Trilogy. Some of these actors I had in mind while writing from Day One, while others I came up with just for this feature. Some of these actors have aged considerably, and some of them--sadly--are no longer with us. Therefore, this is a total dream cast, and I think that each of these actors embody the essence of the characters.

Here's the cast, broken down by each book. KEEP IN MIND, THERE WILL BE SOME SPOILERS BELOW!

Dras Weldon: From the jump, I always envisioned Ethan Embry (circa Can't Hardly Wait) as Dras Weldon. I mean, come on, look at that guy! He's got this open face and this squirrely smirk. He seems to be the absolute last person you would choose to fend off the armies of hell--which is why he's exactly perfect for Dras.

Rosalyn Myers: While Eliza Dushku's turn as Faith Lehane in Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a major inspiration for the character of Rosalyn, I went through a major Jennifer Love Hewitt phase when I first started writing The Strange Man back in the late '90s. I think she's gorgeous; her eyes are so expressive and I think she has a great sincerity and vulnerability in her performances. In the books, Rosalyn goes from girl-next-door, to tormented victim, to lost soul. I think JLH could handle all of that and make us feel for her character's dark journey every step of the way.

Jeff Weldon: My wife and I agree that a young Tim Daly would make a perfect Jeff Weldon, while my brother leans towards The Vampire Diaries' Ian Somerhalder (who might also make a pretty good Strange Man, no?). However you cut it, we need an apple pie, upstanding good man and I think Supernatural's Jensen Ackles is a perfect fit. I think the early seasons of Supernatural show that Jensen is a powerhouse of an actor. He can be cute, threatening, burdened, desperate to please his father, and kind. He's got the full range (and I hear the girls think he's hot). Well, okay, I'll admit--he is a pretty good-looking man.

Isabella Weldon: When Jennifer Lopez is not all done up in her glamorous dresses, I think she displays a real down-to-earth beauty. She exudes strength, but also warmth and humor--everything a woman needs to play Isabella.

The Strange Man: This is a hard one, and I've changed my views on who should play the titular villain. But, these days, I'm gonna throw it to Tom Huddleston. Have you seen his creepy Loki grin? I think this actor could capture the suave appeal of the demon in his human form, as well as cutting loose and being wide-eyed evil and sadistic.

Lindsey McCormick: For the Strange Man's first victim, I would select none other than Vampire Diaries sweetheart Candice Accola. She's the right mixture of bubbly innocence and beauty--and we'd all instantly hate the Strange Man for taking her out of this world.

Sheriff Hank Berkley: For my money, the late great Lane Smith will always be Hank Berkley to me, hands down. He played the father in Son-in-Law (yeah, Pauly Shore!), and Perry White in Lois & Clark on ABC. I see this man and some of the characters he's played and I just want to give him a big ole hug. And that's exactly what kind of reaction I get from Hank. Hank is fatherly, a bit dopey at times, but all Southern heart. Mr. Smith would have knocked that performance out of the park.

Danny Carpenter: As stated in a previous commentary, I've always envisioned Norman Reedus as everyone's favorite rebellious punk with a heart of gold.

Millie Walker: Precocious Mara Wilson from Mrs. Doubtfire would have been perfect for the soft spoken, though courageous, toddler who dared to shove a defiant finger in the face of hell.

Annie Myers: Michelle Trachtenberg was the cute, though annoying kid sister in Buffy, and I believe she would have served the same purpose as Rosalyn's cute, though annoying kid sister :p

Leonard Fergus: Again, as already noted in one of my commentaries for Enemies, I want Bill Cobbs to play Leonard. That voice, that gait! Accept no substitute.

Christopher Perdu: Well, it has to be a young Robert Redford, right? I mean, I said as much in the book!

Deputy Ryan Stevenson: We need a hulking guy with a sinister glint in his eyes. Browncoats rejoice as I believe Firefly's Adam Baldwin would be a perfect and intimidating Deputy (and later Sheriff) Stevenson.

Will Baxter: Okay, so I chose Hayden Christensen. Attack of the Clones notwithstanding, there's something about this actor that I want to like. I believe (a younger version of him) could play the shy, untried assistant pastor--but with a darkness brewing in his eyes.

Ray McCormick: "Doom! Doom!" Marvelous character actor Jeffrey Combs has all the Lovecraftian nuance to play Lindsey's grieving father who falls victim to terrible visions of the Doom That Has Come to Greensboro.

Earl Canton: I struggled with this one, but I think I've settled on Clancy Brown in the role of Earl, playing the embittered father who distrusts his local government and wants answers for all the "mysterious events" going on in Greensboro. I've loved Clancy Brown in everything I've ever seen him in, so I'm confident he would bring an intensity, and also a great sadness, to the role of Earl.

Jack Weldon: For the role of Dras and Jeff's father, I needed a man who could just look at you and either build you up or cut you down. The late Jason Robards is just that good.

Reid: When Christopher calls in for some angelic backup, he gets this long-haired hippy in a "God Is Nifty" T-Shirt. Dean Haglund as Langley in The X-Files and The Lone Gunmen was, quite obviously, the inspiration for Reid and I can't imagine another actor playing him.

Carter Ross: I pretty much just ripped off Carter's look from the character of C.J. in the remake of Dawn of the Dead anyway, so let's just cast the same actor, Michael Kelly, yeah?

Sarah Browning: This was a tough cast, but I really like Mary Elizabeth Winstead. I think she's a solid actress and would make a great "cute nerd" who makes eyes at Danny. She's smart, quirky, and confident: good qualities for the Haven's resident computer tech.

TJ Walker: Shawn Hatosy's turn as a discontent jock in '90s creature feature The Faculty puts him in the prime position for the role of misguided monster in our movie.

Rebecca Walker: Penelope Ann Miller was a name that sprung to mind while creating this list. She's got a tenderness, honesty, and fierce motherly instinct that could serve her well in the Dark Hour.

Franklin Whitaker: It's a Supernatural reunion! Papa Winchester himself, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, was always Franklin in my book. He's gruff, got the look of a hard worker, and has an easy-to-love smile.

Bonus round! I would be remiss not to include my dream casting for the Arbigast Group as featured in this e-novella that takes place between Enemies of the Cross and Dark Hour.

Jon Arbigast: I've already admitted in an earlier commentary that the character of Arbigast was directly inspired by my wide-eyed admiration of James Woods in John Carpenter's Vampires. Man, I love that guy.

Rashonda Spencer: I've never considered anyone else for the role of Arbigast's right hand woman than powerful lioness Angela Bassett.

Zabuto LeBeau: Idris Elba is everywhere these days, and there's a reason for that: He's just so blasted cool. He carries himself with humble confidence and power--perfect for Zabuto.

Nathan Callahan: Once again, the only person, in my mind, who could play the crude and brutish monster hunter is character actor Mark Boone Junior (and, hey, he's in Vampires too!).

Rachel King: Smoking hot Rachel Nichols would be a great fit as the rookie who has to prove her muster to the likes of Jon Arbigast.

So, there we go! The trilogy is cast! Do you agree or disagree with my casting? Who would you cast? Feel free to chime in and join in the fun!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Whoa, This is Heavy!

I haven't made much mention of it around here, as I wanted to be further along in the process before I blew the whistle too loudly, but for the last three years (sheesh!), I've been working on writing a completely unofficial chronology for Back to the Future with the fine folks at Hasslein Books. I am very happy (and relieved) to announce that the book is finished--at least as far as my contribution goes. Now we're in the final editing phase as well as formatting and some amazing interior illustrations by the uber-talented Pat Carbajal.

Follow this link to read a brief Q&A with me about the book and look for Back in Time: The Unauthorized Back to the Future Chronology, co-written with Rich Handley, this fall!

Monday, May 13, 2013

New Podcast at Spirit Blade!

Once again, Paeter Frandsen at Spirit Blade Underground has been gracious enough to let me ramble for a few minutes about a new book--in this case: Dark Hour, the final book in The Coming Evil Trilogy.

Head over there now to listen to the podcast where I talk about the process of switching publishers mid-series as well as the success (or failure) of the Christian Horror genre in mainstream Christian publishing. Go!

In related news, I didn't realize how often I said "y'know" Note to self: STOP IT. :p

Saturday, April 27, 2013

New Interview...With Me!

Hey, everybody. Fellow horror writer Mark Carver (who recently stopped by this very blog for an interview of his own) has graciously invited me to his blog to chat about my inspirations, my fascination with the horror genre, and the perils of trying to sell a story about flesh-eating monsters to the traditional Christian market.

Here's a sample, and be sure to head over there to read the rest!

"Horror, however, is all about tearing away safety and this sort of illusion that we are in control of everything. It reveals the unspeakable monsters that lurk just outside of our peripheral and, in my mind, causes us to run screaming to God for protection. Horror, to me, forces me to consider something larger than myself and seek answers in God."

Friday, April 19, 2013

Adios and Shalom: Looking Back At The Merkabah Rider Series

Today we're doing things a little different 'round here. 2013 was a big year for me, seeing the completion of The Coming Evil Trilogy--but 2013 also marks the end of the critically acclaimed and brilliant Merkabah Rider series written by my pal Ed Erdelac. In honor of this momentous occasion, I've asked Ed to stop by the blog and share his journey, taking us from the Rider's inception, to the final chapter in his tale. It's a great read and should prompt you to immediately run out and buy all four books!

Take it away, Ed!


This month saw the release of Merkabah Rider 4: Once Upon A Time In The Weird West, the last installment of my Judeocentric weird western series.

For those unfamiliar with it, it’s about a Hasidic gunslinger tracking the renegade teacher who betrayed his mystic Jewish order of astral travelers to the Great Old Ones of the Lovecraftian Mythos. Along the way, the Rider (so-called because members of his order, The Sons of The Essenes, assume a title to obfuscate their true names from malevolent spirits) encounters half-demon outlaws, a mystic cannon, a brothel full of antediluvian succubi, shoggoths, invisible monsters, Doc Holiday, zombies, an undead gunfighter constructed from the body parts of famous outlaws, and a pissed off animated windmill among other dangers.

Beyond the weirdness and adventure, it’s also a story about the testing of a man’s faith in the face of overwhelming cosmic horror and indifference, and, at its core, I like to think, the beneficial nature of tolerance.

 The stories of the Rider started for me in high school. I had just read Robert E. Howard’s stories The Thunder Rider, Old Garfield’s Heart, and The Horror From The Mound, and I was thinking about writing weird westerns. I tried my hand at a few, two of which show up greatly expanded upon in Tales Of A High Planes Drifter (namely The Dust Devils and Hell’s Hired Gun). In their original incarnation, the hero of those stories was an ex-soldier, an objector to the heinous Sand Creek Massacre who was shot and left for dead by his comrades, and rescued by a Cheyenne medicine man who sewed a mystical hide shirt to his skin that allowed him to shrug off bullets.  I wrote a couple more of these featuring that character “The Ghost Dancer,” but I lost interest after a bit as The Dancer’s mission was solely vengeance bent, and not really very engaging. I wasn’t ready yet to create a compelling central character.

I think my seeing the TV series Kung Fu when it was rerun on TNT in freshman or sophomore year of college planted the seed in my mind for a fish out of water individual traveling through the west, but it wasn’t till nearly ten years later, when I had moved to an orthodox Jewish neighborhood and my wife picked up an angelology book (Angels A To Z) that the Rider finally reared full blown into my mind.

I came across this entry –

Merkabah Rider – An ancient Jewish mystic who fasted and prayed to reach an ecstatic trance. While in this trance state, he sent his soul upward through the heavenly halls in an attempt to reach the Throne of Glory that is supported by the chariot of Merkavah (the fiery vehicle seen by Elijah). The objective of the Merkabah Rider was to join himself with the Universal Soul. During this journey, the Rider was constantly plagued  by demons. The Merkabah Rider used prayer, magical talismans, incantations, and asceticism to enlist the aid of angels, who would protect him throughout his journey and ultimately defeat his antagonists.
I also found an illustration by Gustave Dore for John Milton’s Paradise Lost, The Empyrean, which depicted the Heavenly Host turning as a great wheel or flock around the brilliant presence of God in the middle. It’s at once beautiful and harrowing.

Immediately my brain conjured this image of a Hasidic Jew in long black coat and hat, riding a horse made of flame.

I started tackling Jewish folklore and mysticism, reading everything I could. Little details began to fit into place. The Rider’s mystically embossed blue glass spectacles, etched with Solomonic seals that allowed him to look into the spirit world at its unseen denizens. His adorned Volcanic pistol (a favorite design of firearm for me – the protagonist of my straight, no ghoulies western novel Buff Tea carries one), the mystic symbols allowing him to carry it into the astral plane. Much of his asceticism I took from Jewish kashrut or kosher teaching, but some I culled from Kung Fu’s shaolin monks (the Rider’s refusal to ride a horse, for instance).

Only a year earlier I had discovered H.P. Lovecraft, and was thinking a lot about the deities of his indifferent universe. I needed a foe for the Rider to face, but the Jewish view of the Devil is quite different from Christianity’s. Satan is not directly opposed to God. He works for God, testing the souls of man and maintaining Sheol/hell as a crucible for the human spirit. He’s not the blasphemous entity popularized in horror films and books.

So I got to thinking, that in an ordered universe, the ultimate nemesis would be chaos. And in researching Jewish mystic thought, I came across another passage (in the fantastic reference The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth Magic and Mysticism) –

Rahav – A cosmic sea monster first mentioned in the biblical book of Isaiah….God slew him when he refused to help in creating the earth. The oceans conceal the lethal stink of his carcass, which is why the sea smells so strange.

Sounds like Cthulhu, right?

So then reading more, I found references to a forbidden area of mystic study, that which precedes Creation – the Olam ha-Tohu, The World of Chaos.

I had found my heavy for the Merkabah Rider series, and the more I researched and read, the easier things began to fit in with each other. That’s when I know I’m on to something – when I don’t have to force anything. When references just start making themselves known to me.

For a direct physical villain, again, the character just made himself known to me. I was watching a lot of Doctor Who and enjoyed the character of The Master – a diametrically opposed Time Lord and foil for The Doctor. I decided a failed Merkabah Rider who worships chaos might be interesting, so I came up with Adon (whose name means “Master” or “Lord”). When the time came to present a story for Adon, I happened to read the Jewish fable of the sages who entered Paradise.

Four men entered the pardes — Ben Azzai, Ben Zoma, Acher [that is, Elisha ben Abuyeh], and Akiba. Ben Azzai looked and died; Ben Zoma looked and went mad; Acher severed the root; Akiba entered in peace and departed in peace.

In some mystic schools of thought, our souls or astral selves are bound to this world by an astral tether which reaches from the corona of our head.

In the world of Merkabah Rider, I had established that this tether anchored the soul to the body and thus the physical world. It was a root, and Elisha ben Abuyah had cut it. He had severed himself from his body, but because he had done so before the Throne of Glory, he had somehow gone on (perhaps due to Merkabah Rider training), a disembodied spirit, able to possess other’s physical forms.

But what had the Sages seen that had caused such drastic reactions?

I decided, the Outer Gods, slumbering in the world of Chaos that bordered the universe as created by God.

What would such knowledge do to the Rider? That became a central point of the series. Could the Rider maintain his faith? Would it change anything for him? Would he go the route of Adon?

In the meantime, I could let my imagination run wild, and I did, borrowing or adapting creatures and people from folklore and literature (Ambrose Bierce’s Damned Thing shows up as a servant of the Old Ones in The Damned Dingus) history, and the Bible, and exploring my love of the Old West at the same time.

It was a wonderful experience, writing Merkabah Rider, and the positive response it’s received from those who have read and enjoyed it are very dear to me – particularly the unsolicited reader reviews on sites like Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, LibraryThing, and Shelfari.

I want to share just a few that I treasure –

“It is, quite simply, one of the coolest things I've ever read. It feels like something tailor made for me, and it feels genuine and sincere.”

“The best book I read last year. You don't need to like westerns to like his work--he is a genius. The Merkabah Rider Series is better than investing in gold. It will make you feel awesome inside---like maybe you finally read a book that meant something---he is that good.”

“This is great--no, stupendous adventure fiction, the kind that I often crave and rarely find.”

There are just a few, and I post them not to inflate my own ego, but because they mean a great deal to me, as all of them do. Even the negative ones. These are people that went out and bought the book on their own and got something from it, and in the age of file sharing and buying and selling reviews, that’s something to me.

Now I just hope nobody retracts their previous good opinions when they’ve read the last one.

In closing, it’s been a wonderful trip writing Merkabah Rider. There are still small stories about the Rider that can be told (one, The Shomer Express, has already appeared in anthology called The Trigger Reflex), and characters from the series might still appear here and there in related works, but for now, I turn my attention to other things.

The Rider and his onager walk off into the sunset.