In about three weeks, you’ll get to read this:
Stay tuned for details…
Welcome my good friend, Greg Mitchell, to the Occult Detective. Greg and I met through The Midnight Diner, a neat little anthology that we both contributed to a few years back. Greg and I bonded over a mutual appreciation of each others writing and our love and fascination for those things that go bump in the night. Having read Greg’s debut novel, The Strange Man, I can assure you that he knows a thing or two about what scares folk. He invokes a sense of dread, conjuring up the very essence of evil and foreboding doom like few others. With that being said, it is my pleasure to turn over the reins to him today as he shares with you what being scared is all about.
You would think that I like to be scared, judging by the stories that I write. Monsters populate my grisly tales, stalking victims, visiting tragedy and despair on the innocent. Readers have certainly been scared by my writing (in a good way, I hope), but always come to a similar conclusion: “Greg must like being scared.”
On the contrary, I hate being scared.
As I write this, a tornado warning has just been lifted off our small Arkansas town. My wife and two little daughters were huddled in the bathroom, praying that, should a touchdown occur, it’d pass us by. For half an hour, I watched the weather report, pacing between every window in the house, looking for signs of a funnel cloud. I was scared and I didn’t like it.
Growing up, I was pretty much scared of everything—other kids at school, finishing my homework on time, meeting new people, going new places, and reaching adulthood period. Where did I find solace for my fears? Well, my faith, certainly. Since I was about eight, I have relied on God as I’ve understood Him through the Bible, and that’s taken me through life’s darkest hours. But, perhaps ironically to some, the other place I have found warm security is in horror movies. Ghost stories told around a flashlight. Books on urban legends, checked out from my school library. I often found peace in the world of the macabre, because here I could face my fear head-on and survive.
The same can be said of me today, at age thirty-two. I still love monster movies. They still ease my fears and remind me of simpler times. Of fighting off childhood bogeymen.
Being so afraid, it’s no surprise that the characters I gravitated towards in my favorite movies and stories were the monster hunters. Those greater than myself who could protect me should a werewolf or Phantasm’s Tall Man darken my door. Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan, not Hugh Jackman), the Frog Brothers from The Lost Boys, Fright Night’s Peter Vincent, or Michael Myers’ nemesis Doctor Sam Loomis. Or perhaps most of all, my greatest childhood heroes—The Real Ghostbusters (yes, I watched the cartoon before the movie. Sue me, I was young), and The Monster Squad. My fondest summer as a boy was spent watching The Monster Squad nearly every single day before rushing outside with my neighborhood chums. We’d assign roles—I insisted on being Rudy—and do battle with invisible hellish beasts. We’d draw maps, form tactics, and bike pedal to the local library to do long hours (probably just thirty minutes) of research on the best ways to kill a vampire, or what Freddy Krueger’s weaknesses were (I settled on fire). We investigated neighborhood houses we believed to be haunted (you’d really think our block was sitting on a Hellmouth, by how many “discoveries” we made), and we kept each other in the loop when rumors surfaced of a local Bigfoot sighting. We had our own little Monster Squad and I’ll never forget it. Looking back, it was a powerful experience for me as a ten/eleven-year-old boy. I found my courage, tested my wits, and, best of all, faced my fears. Those were scary times—we often convinced ourselves of supernatural happenings and, while it was nothing but children’s overactive imaginations, it was real to us. To me. And I fought it. I was a monster hunter.
Writing, these days, is about recapturing that fearlessness of my youth. About lassoing my deepest fears of the Bogeyman and binding him to the printed page—and then fighting him. My novel The Strange Man is one such tale, the first of a trilogy about ordinary people learning how to be heroes. How to fight devils. It’s about coming of age and finding the strength to face our demons. It’s about faith, God, doubt, regret—but at the heart of it all it’s about me, still a boy looking for monsters in the dark places, ready to drive them back with the light of day.
ABOUT THE STRANGE MAN: Dras Weldon lives in a world of horror movies and comic books. Twenty-two and unemployed, he is content to hide in the shadow of adolescence with a faith that he professes but rarely puts into action. But when a demonic stranger arrives and begins threatening his friends, Dras is drawn into a battle that forces him to choose which side he is on. In a race against the clock, he must not only fight these evil forces but also somehow convince his best friend, Rosalyn, to join him–before she is lost forever.
This morning, on Twitter, I wrote: “There are many lessons to be learned, not the least of which is to be mindful of one’s tongue. Words can cut as sharply as knives.” This is true on many levels, in our daily lives and as writers. “Words are weapons” has been a mantra of mine ever since I first came online. I have recited it, ad nauseum, in regard to everything from personal relationships, magical discourse, and fictional imaginings.
I have hurt more people, in often subtle ways and without intent, with words than I ever did with my bloody knuckles. And I used to beat up drunks and malcontents for a living.
In fiction, these words cut for effect, attempting to drive a point home and to shed some light on the inner workings of a character… but in the real world, the slice of a word can have a devastating effect, not only on the one being cut, but on the one doing the cutting. Even when there is no malice behind the words spoken, once uttered they can do irreparable harm. That harm may not manifest openly, but the wound can be deep and slow to heal.
Guard your words well. Hone them. Nourish them. Use them wisely and with restraint.
In all things, say what you mean and mean what you say.
Words ARE weapons.
Guido Henkel, author of the Jason Dark Supernatural Mystery series, joins us here on the Occult Detective to share what inspired his foray into the genre. I’ve personally had the pleasure of reading several Jason Dark stories and, as you might recall, selected Ghosts Templar as the Best Short Story in the inaugural Occult Detective Awards last year. Well, Jason Dark’s back in Curse of Kali, available for only .99 cents as a kindle download on Amazon. So, please, give a warm welcome to Guido Henkel as he pulls up a chair and gives us a glimpse into how Jason Dark was born…
The Sherlock Holmes Connection and Other Influences
A Guest Blog by Guido Henkel
I have just released Curse of Kali, the tenth Jason Dark supernatural mystery, and I think this book in particular warrants a look at some of my true inspirations. The question has come up many times — in fact it is one of the standard questions any author routinely gets when doing interviews — but given the unique story blend that “Curse of Kali” contains, you might be curious to find out more about some of the things that inspire me month after month while I am writing these supernatural mysteries.
When it comes to the Jason Dark books, there is one source that stands out for me like no other. One book, that essentially made me want to pick up a pen and begin to write the kinds of books that make up the Jason Dark mysteries. That one book is The List of Seven by Mark Frost.
Its Victorian atmosphere immediately captured me and, being a long-time fan of classic monster movies, the world of fog-shrouded London gets my imagination flowing pronto. But the thing I loved most about the book was the fact how Frost wove his mystery by liberally throwing in historic figures as well as literary personalities to give the world color. Heck, the entire book is one big homage to Sherlock Holmes from beginning to end.
I enjoyed this approach so much that I decided from the beginning that my Jason Dark mysteries would be in that same vein — without copying Frost, however. Instead I was dedicated to finding my own tone, my own voice.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories are another huge influence on me, as anyone could probably tell. Not only do I often think of Jason Dark as some kind of a Holmes-on-steroids, but I also loosely refer to characters from Holmes’ mysteries rather frequently. I am not talking about Holmes and Watson only, but readers of my mysteries may have noticed that Jason Dark often peruses a group of young street urchins around a boy named Tom Baker — a nod in homage to the Baker Street Irregulars from Conan Doyle’s books. In addition, attentive readers may have noticed a certain red-haired character in Dead by Dawn — a beggar by the name of Boone who suddenly disappears. This is a reference to Hugh Boone from the Holmes story The Man with the Twisted Lip and those intimately familiar with that story will get yet another kick out of the red-head’s encounter with Jason Dark, as Siu Lin points out that she believes the beggar is a fraud, which is, of course, true and in line with the Holmes story. The reference goes even further later in the story when the beggar disappears and Jason Dark mentions that some consulting detective had him arrested. Again, my nod at the plot of The Man with the Twisted Lip. That was only one example of many you can find strewn throughout the books.
Other important influences were Sax Rohmer’s Fu Man Chu books. I kind of borrow the character from time to time and made the Chinese criminal mastermind a recurring character in the Jason Dark books, crossing paths with my occult detective time and again. In fact, the book that will follow Curse of Kali is titled Fu Man Chu’s Vampire, promising to feature the crime lord very prominently in the story.
Needless to say that the genre classics like Dracula, Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, The Phantom of the Opera, The Werewolf of Paris are all part of my mental repertoire as well, along with more contemporary books.
I have been a great admirer of Chinese fantasy and horror films for more years than I care to remember and hopping vampires have been prominently featured in various of these films. They are part of the Chinese folklore, much the same way that vampires are in our Western cultures. However, I had encountered a hopping vampire in a book only once before, in Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula. In my quest to feed the world of Jason Dark with exciting monsters, I decided to give the hopping vampires a shot. Here we had a creature that was dark, gruesome, terrifying but at the same time very exotic. Exactly what I needed for my opening scene of in Curse of Kali to add a certain, fresh charm to the story, but also to give Fu Man Chu a very unique army of henchmen.
There are countless other sources, of course, that influence me, give me ideas and inspire me — too many to recount, and oftentimes I won’t even remember what spawned a particular idea. It could have been a line in a book, a phrase of lyrics from a song, an image or scene from a movie, a painting or a bit of historic trivia. I try to keep an open mind at all times and allow ideas to pour in at any moment. That’s what I have a Writer’s Journal for, to write down all ideas I’ve had so that I can easily browse them at a later date and begin to massage them until the work in the context I need them in.
Maybe I have piqued your curiosity now, maybe enough so for you to take a closer look at Curse of Kali, a story that brimming with plot twists and mystery. And, of course, an enormous thunderstorm with twitching bolts of lightning, and… wait… I would actually like you to read it, so let me stop here before I give away everything.
Feel free to check out my latest release, Curse of Kali, and if you do, please do not hesitate to leave a review, or to contact me directly with thoughts or comments you might have. I love to hear from my readers at all times! For a constant feed straight from my brain, feel free to also follow me on Twitter (@GuidoHenkel).
Guido Henkel is the author of ten Jason Dark supernatural mysteries, including the hot new release, Curse of Kali, as well as Demon’s Night, Heavens on Fire, Dr. Prometheus, The Blood Witch, Terrorlord and the award-winning Ghosts Templar.
The Oddfellows Serenade graphic novel,
the first chapter of which will be showcased
here on the Occult Detective website,
is progressing nicely.
Watch for the very special preview of
Oddfellows Serenade to appear here in
the last week of May, with the full novel
to be realesed by the end of the year.
Let’s play a game. It’s a variation on the “Desert Island” meme in which we take a good hard look at ourselves by how we would answer the following questions based around our impending demise. Sounds like fun, right? Let’s get started…
You’re going to kick the proverbial bucket… and soon. Answer accordingly.
1.The most popular question is “what would be your last meal” but let’s take it to another level. Give me your full day’s menu — breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
2. What’s the last movie you’d want to watch before you go?
3. What television episode would be a proper send off? Not series, just one episode. Any stand out?
4. What song do you want to be listening to as you slip into the mystic?
5. As a writer, I would be remiss if I didn’t offer you the chance to read one last novel. Which book gets that honor?
6. Out of the kindness of Death’s heart, the Grim Reaper will let you make one stop on the way to your final destination. What site would you like to see before you kick it?
7. You get one final telephone chat with someone. Who you gonna call?*
8. You get to have one visitor before you shuffle off this mortal coil. Who would it be?
There you have ‘em, kids. Answer truthfully. I’m playing along too. My answers will be in the comments below. Have fun, and… no cheating. One answer for each. No wishy-washy multiples. Be definitive.
*Please don’t answer “Ghostbusters”. Thank you.
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Even as a little kid, when I entertained being a super-hero, astronaut, or globe-traveling archaeologist, it was with the caveat that these occupations would be sidekick to my story weaving. Of course what I would write evolved mightily throughout my life. In elementary I imagined myself becoming a comic book writer, but just shy of junior high I was pretty damn sure that I’d be penning fantasy. And not just any fantasy. I had been chewing through Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and J.R.R. Tolkien voraciously at that point and was toying with a world of my own making, populated by a larger-than-life hellraiser named Bowynn.
Bowynn was the heir to the throne of Norsicca, a viking-influenced kingdom on the edge of the frozen wasteland populated by massive wolves, frost giants, and primeval barbaric nomads. Through a bit of political intrigue, young Bowynn and his kin fell victim to the cruel hand of assassination. The royal family was slaughtered, but nine year old Bowynn survived and ended up in the wild lands of the north, raised to be a great warrior by the Sabretooth Clan. He would eventually reclaim his inheritance by unseating the treacherous black magus Lord Malhavok.
These stories never really made it onto paper, but they grew in my mind over the years and influenced my fantasy role-playing.
Watching Game of Thrones last night brought all of that back.
The adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s epic masterpiece is an amazing achievement. It felt and looked more like a big budget summer blockbuster than a small screen mini-series. The acting was superb, the sets and costuming dead-on. It was brutal. It was sexy. And it was filled with all the political machinations one would expect considering the title of the piece. I will, without a doubt, be parked in front of the television every Sunday night to see where this will lead.
And who knows, maybe it will inspire me to dust off Bowynn for a short story or two just for old times sake.
Two very exciting things to report, both related to two of my favorite novels:
1. Neil Gaiman’s American Gods has been optioned by Tom Hanks’ Playtone and is being developed as an epic HBO series. Even better is that Neil himself will be co-writing the series with renowned cinematographer Robert Richardson.
2. Dean Koontz’ phenomenal paranormal series, Odd Thomas, is being adapted by director Stephen Sommers. The cast includes Anton Yelchin, Addison Timlin, Nico Tortorella, Willem Defoe, and Patton Oswalt.
I am ecstatic. Being a huge fan of both novels, seeing them come to life on the big and small screen will be a real treat and I can assure you I’ll be the first in line for both productions. American Gods will certainly be the more challenging of the two. It’s a big story. A true epic. Developing it as a series is the perfect choice. Odd Thomas, on the other hand, is well suited for the big screen. It is, at its heart, a love story. A heartbreaking one. And it has tremendous sequel potential.
I look forward to following the progress of both and will report any and all news as it filters in.
A Writing Exercise:
I am, at my core, a simple man. I was raised with a rural sensibility and I’ve never had any use for cities and the throngs of folk who hang their hats in them. I have a hard time wrapping my head around what would drive a person to live surrounded by asphalt and concrete. I like fresh air that has the smell of rain upon it. I like the feel of wet grass beneath my bare feet. I like the way a spring storm sweeps you up in its drama and makes your heart swell with every clap of thunder and crack of lightning. I like to watch as dark clouds swirl overhead turning day into night with its impending fury. I reckon I like all of this because there’s been a storm brewing inside of me since I was boy, when clamoring over the hill out back of my folk’s place and wading through Turkey Creek with my trusty lever action BB Gun was as close to heaven on earth as one could get. Well, storms are a might unpredictable and can sure make a mess of things, but one thing’s for sure, there’s no denying them. They shake the very pillars of heaven when they’ve a want to, and come hell or high water, the storm does what it does and damn the consequences. It’s a force of nature. And so too am I. It’s been said that I didn’t have the sense it took to come in out of the rain, but I see it different. We’re kin, that storm and me. Hunker down if you like. Cower before its might. As for me, I will ride the lightning and touch the sky.