Monday, March 25, 2013

"Dark Hour" Commentary--Part II

Part One

Welcome to another installment of our Dark Hour commentary. Don't forget, you have one more week to enter for your chance to win a free signed copy of the book over at Goodreads!


Today, we're talking about the new monster on the block--the TJ Creature. This winged gargolye-man actually made his first appearance in the e-novella prequel to Dark Hour, Lengthening Shadows (still on sale for only 2.99 :p). For each book of the saga, I wanted to expand the monster mythology. In Book Two, we introduced the Shamblers, so in Book Three, I concocted another mutation of the "Shambler-strain", as it were. The Creature is described as being covered in black oil (like all Shamblers), except this one has a face because he's a different type. He's also winged, and wrapped in tattered clothes. With a description like that, you would assume that I was simply ripping off another awesome Hollywood creature--The Creeper from Jeepers Creepers. I mean, even their names are similar!

However, you would be mistaken. First off, let me say that I love Jeepers Creepers. I discovered that movie before I learned of certain controversies surrounding its writer/director, but both of those films came out in a time in my life when I wanted to believe in a monster again. I watched both of those movies with a childlike sense of wonder, so they are near and dear to me. So, I guess it's safe to say that some of that inspiration rubbed off when crafting my own winged menace.

Yet, the REAL inspiration for the TJ Creature dates back to when I was a small boy. You see, there's this little movie that came straight to VHS called "G.I. Joe: The Movie". No, no, not the one with the Wayans brother, but the REAL one. The one with Sgt. Slaughter. Featured in this stirring piece of cinematic history is a fearsome creature that terrified me--and thrilled me--all at the same time.

I present to you the glorious Nemesis Enforcer!

Breathtaking in his dread and wonder, isn't he? Well, I was, like, 9 when this came out, so he was awesome to me. He was a mute, who let those wicked blades do the talking for him. The guy was nigh indestructible, an unstoppable killing machine. What Dark Hour would be complete without a towering brute of unimaginable strength and unending cold hatred?

The TJ Creature turned out to be quite a challenge to write, however. I made him so strong, that, as the book wound down, I was uncertain how to actually destroy him. At one time, I actually had TJ originally discovering a winged statue (a la Cthulhu) and worshiping it so much that he took on its characteristics. Then, the heroes had to smash the statue to break its hold over TJ. Sounded pretty cool, but it didn't track. It was very important to me to showcase that our real-world spiritual battle is not fought with traditional weapons, but with grace, forgiveness, mercy, and love. In a sort of 11th Hour moment, I realized that having Jeff forgive the Creature as a means of repelling his monstrous state was powerful and unique.

Some have commented, though, that after this happens, TJ simply runs off into the woods, and right out of our story. That's true, he does. And it seems he has little real resolution. My purpose for this was to show that, in real life, things don't always have tidy conclusions. Sometimes people just move out of our lives and we wonder "What ever happened to them?" But TJ's still out there, somewhere. Maybe one day we'll meet him again, but maybe we won't.

The other Shambler mutation in this book is the Rosalyn-Thing. The origins for this one were two-fold. A) When it's revealed in the book that the Dark Hour doesn't really bring some Lovecraftian menace, I felt a little cheated, even as the writer. So Rosalyn (and the Behemoth at the Lake) was my nod to tentacles and slime and eyeballs. It's a pretty grotesque picture: Rosalyn is hanging in the air, suspended by this growth oozing out of the side of her head. It's got eyes and teeth and tentacles and slick with black and green slime. Yuck! I wanted something that was hard to picture, something you didn't want to picture. That was partly due to Lovecraft, but another inspiration for this bizarre design came from watching my brother play some of the more recent Resident Evil games. I mean, there are some sick looking monsters in those suckers!

I mean, what?

Ultimately, I was very pleased with how these new and bizarre creatures turned out in the story and it thrills me to no end that I was able to write a "Christian" novel filled with tentacles, eyeballs, slime, claws, mutations, and the like in all of their horrible glory!

Tune in next Monday for our next installment! In the meantime, my pal and fellow horror author Ed Erdelac recently had me sit down over at his blog and take a thoughtful look back at the entire The Coming Evil Trilogy.

Monday, March 18, 2013

"Dark Hour" Commentary--Part I

Welcome back!

By now, many of you have already picked up the last book in The Coming Evil Trilogy. And, if you haven't, why not? Go check it out on Amazon--available in print and Kindle editions!

Today begins my series of commentaries through Dark Hour. I've previously done this with The Strange Man and Enemies of the Cross, as it serves as a sort of final farewell to that chapter in the saga. As with those other commentaries, this one is filled with spoilers, so if you haven't read the book yet and you want to be surprised, READ NO FURTHER. But, if you're ready to jump in, then let's go.

Today we're going to talk about the mythology of angels, as they exist in The Coming Evil. From the get-go, I wanted Dark Hour to be important and full of revelations. After all, this was the final installment of the series, so I didn't want to hold anything back. One of the things I really wanted to explore was the concept of angels.

In supernatural fiction, devils often get the spotlight, and I think I've spent a great deal of time showcasing the monsters of the saga and how they operated. But, I wanted to give the angels their time to shine too. After all, we wouldn't have fallen angels without angels, right? In this book I reveal that my angels don't feel love. They don't experience forgiveness for sins--in fact, a single act of rebellion can get them forevermore banished from Heaven. Yikes!

Now, do I believe that any of that is real? Well, I don't know. However, my Biblical basis for this hypothesis can be found in Hebrews chapter one. In it, the writer of Hebrews was trying to persuade those who had converted to Christianity, but were tempted to slide back into the ritualism of Judaism, that Christ is superior to the Law and that His one sacrifice is better than the continual animal sacrifices as done under the old covenant. As part of that argument, the writer went to great lengths to demonstrate how Christ is exceedingly greater than the angels (which were greatly revered by the Hebrews), and one of those comparisons discusses how God called Jesus His Son and bestowed upon Him a place of honor and distinction, while God never once called an angel "son". From that--and how angels serve throughout the Old Testament--we can see that angels are servants. They are "the hired help". Unless I'm mistaken, there is no mention of angels being redeemed by Jesus' work on the Cross. Humans are redeemed. Heck, the Earth will be redeemed. But no mention of angels, except to say that those who sided with Satan will be cast in the lake of fire.

From those passages, I extrapolated the notion that angels are on thin ice. And, why wouldn't they be? Humans only see God through a hazy window. We have moments of inspiration, of true connection, then we quickly lose sight of Heaven. Whether you're a Christian or not, I'm sure there's a moment when you've looked at the person you love, or seen your child discover a flower for the first time, and felt connected to something instinctual and spiritual. And, if we're to consider angels, these are guys that are continually in the presence of God. We only get fleeting glimpses of Truth, but these guys have the full revelation. If THEY sin, how much greater is it? That's apostasy, that's rebellion. That led me to think what it might be like for an angel--in this case Christopher--to be "stationed" on Earth for any given length of time. Earth is teeming with sin and injustice and perversion and selfishness; a far cry from Heaven. How great must an angel's temptation be while on Earth? I mean, we know they can sin. Satan is proof of that, as well as the angels in Genesis 6 who left Heaven so they could "take wives" (i.e. have sex) with human women.

In fact, it was that motivation that led to the Strange Man's fall. He wanted to mate with a woman. He wanted to "love" like the humans do, though without having any real sense of what true love meant, and he was damned as a result.

I remember that hokey Nic Cage movie "City of Angels". How "romantic" it was for the angel to face hell for Meg Ryan. Let's see...eternity of damnation for one night of hot love. Yeah. Not a great tradeoff. I thought the movie was ridiculous and only demonstrated how blind that sort of Hollywood "love is God" pseudo-theology is. So, I did my spin on it. Strange Man is my Nic Cage who leaves Heaven for a girl--and the girl cheats on him. He spirals out of control, slips into madness, and wants to watch the world burn.

It's come as a surprise to some readers to discover that the Strange Man is NOT the devil. That was always the intention, though I didn't mind leaving it ambiguous for a time. But now it's the final chapter, so all is revealed. So often the Big Demon Bad Guy in one of these types of stories is looking to rule the world or have some great big cosmic scheme. The Strange Man, however, is much more petty. He's simply jealous of humans, and delights in watching them suffer. He's a vindictive lover--nothing more. But oh what destruction he causes because he was spurned in love.

The angelic duo of Christopher and Reid were a lot of fun to write. I've already talked about Christopher being inspired by Robert Redford--especially how cool he is in Sneakers--so I wanted his partner to have an equally Sneakers-type vibe. The angel Reid is a very thinly veiled homage to one of my favorite TV shows The Lone Gunmen, most specifically the character of Langly wonderfully played by comedian Dean Haglund.

Originally, there were a lot more scenes involving this dynamic duo in the book, but I ultimately cut them for time. Some of that material--including scenes reflecting more of the brotherly-relationship between Christopher and The Strange Man are still included in my Dark Hour prequel e-novella Lengthening Shadows. I've actually always thought that Christopher and Reid could carry a whole novel on their own, though I don't have any plans for that at the moment. But I would love to see these characters return one day and get even more time in the spotlight. Angels are like the roadies of Heaven, and I always love writing about the "little guy" who keeps things running behind-the-scenes.

Thanks for tuning in. Head over to Part II of our commentary, where we meet the new monster in The Coming Evil mythology!

Also, running for a limited time (two weeks), I'm giving away two signed free copies of Dark Hour on Goodreads. Sign up and register for your chance to win!