Archive for the Writing in Theory & Practice Category

Remembering JN Williamson (April 17, 1932 – December 8, 2005)

Posted in Writing in Theory & Practice on December 8, 2017 by Occult Detective

I possess a number of curious artifacts. Few are as precious to me as my collection of letters penned by the late Jerry Williamson.

J.-N.-WilliamsonJ.N. Williamson was a Hoosier native who carved out a living as a mid-list horror author, journalist, and sometimes astrologer. He was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers of America in 2003 and passed away on December 8, 2005 at the age of 73.

Tom Millstead, one of Williamson’s lifelong friends, contacted me about preserving his collection of correspondences that he’d saved over the years, letters between the two of them that chronicled decades of personal history. Williamson discussed the ups and downs and craft of writing, the ins and outs of publishing, and so much more in these marvelous recollections from the late 40s on.

I have held on to these letters for the past decade, always meaning to do something more with them, to see them published in some fashion. There are some marvelous insights sprinkled throughout. It’s a shame for them to remain unseen.

Someday.

Unfortunately, few people remember the authors of yesterday. Even though Jerry’s been gone but a short while, he is largely unknown to today’s readers. Despite having written more than 100 short stories and 40 novels, having edited numerous celebrated anthologies, a lifetime of hard work and dedication to the craft of writing, J.N. Williamson is largely forgotten.

Well, not be me.

Godspeed, Jerry. You are missed.

 

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Horror for the Holidays

Posted in Horror, Occult Detectives, Sword & Sorcery, Writing in Theory & Practice on November 24, 2017 by Occult Detective

Have you heard of jólabókaflóð? You must have, because the Icelandic tradition of exchanging books on Christmas Eve and then spending the evening reading, is fast becoming a cultural phenomenon around the world.

Now that’s a tradition I can get behind.

If you’ve got loved ones who love to read, and prefer something a little bit more — shall we say — sinister, might I suggest my offerings, published by Seventh Star Press.

CAIRNWOOD AD

Available on Amazon.com Shadows Over Somerset  & Keepers of the Dead

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Available on Amazon.com First Born

Nothing says Yuletide quite like stories about occult detectives, werewolves, witches, vampires, and immortal swordsmen. Add a sprinkling of Norse Gods into the equation and you’ve got yourself one helluva Christmas Party.

 

Happy Birthday, Neil Gaiman

Posted in Writing in Theory & Practice with tags on November 10, 2017 by Occult Detective

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Happy Birthday, Neil Gaiman, born November 10, 1960.

I’ve always found Neil Gaiman quite quotable. He has a distinct and enviable way of stringing words together that invoke a sense of whimsical gravitas. One of my favorite quotes, of which there are many, is this —

Tales and adventures are the shadow truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes and forgotten.

I have always been something of a pulp writer with literary aspirations. Gaiman, on the other-hand, writes from a different perch, where myth and fantasy meet reality. He lets you peek behind the curtain, to see the cosmic machinations where the surreal collides with the mundane. He, in a phrase, weaves magic, and admirably so.

If you’ve not read him, you should. If you have, then you should revisit an old friend. I mean, it is his birthday after all…

 

Easily Led

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error, Writing in Theory & Practice on November 6, 2017 by Occult Detective

“Easily Led” by Bob Freeman
Originally published by “The Black Glove”
November 4, 2009

signWhen invited to write an article for The Black Glove’s Horror Playlist I played over and over in my mind all the different approaches I could take. Geared toward a Top Ten format, I struggled over whether to take the easy route and list my favorite songs or albums, but such lists with me are fluid things, ever changing. and more representative of my current state of mind rather than being a concrete and immutable thing.

As The Black Glove caters to the horror genre, I began to think in terms of my writing and how music is a part of my overall creative process. When chained to my desk and in the actual throes of wordsmithing I tend to listen to movie soundtracks, classical music, or, most often, traditional Celtic Folk music. I find lyrics and vocals distracting to my writing process, as the words have a tendency to pull me out of the moment.

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Instrumentals wash over me and focus my energies, allowing my consciousness to become untethered to the surrounding world and I become lost in the sea of my imagination… however, I’m all about setting a mood and if I have a bit of forethought into what I’m sitting down to write, I will select certain songs to enhance that atmosphere before the actual writing begins. So what follows is a list of those songs that I commonly turn to for inspiration, seeking to invoke an emotional response as I prepare myself to wield the power cosmic.

If any musical genre has reached into my soul and made itself a home it would be the Blues and if we’re going to look to the Blues then it begins and ends with Robert Johnson.

Robert_JohnsonGrowing up in a house filled with Country & Western and early Rock-n-Roll, it was only a matter of time before I found the heart of the matter. A growing obsession as a young man with Zeppelin led me to seek out their influences and Johnson, oft mentioned by both Page and Plant — as well as every other Blues-influenced British invader — helped me to rediscover this homespun legend. Black magic and the Blues was a marriage made in Heaven, and Johnson was the Black Pope, singing with a poignant, angst-ridden darkness and playing that beat up six string with an infernal urgency. His catalogue is perfection, but “Cross Road Blues” is the benchmark for excellence, invoking sympathy, longing, and remorse.

A host of artists have covered Johnson’s repertoire, but few have been able to make his music their own. One band who did so was the Cowboy Junkies with their cover of Johnson’s “Me and the Devil Blues”. A track off of the Pump Up the Volume soundtrack, if you’re looking for something atmospheric this certainly fits the bill with its unique blend of Country, Blues, and Jazz, all filtered through an alternative rock sensibility.

ddStepping away from the Blues for a moment, this is the part of my essay where I make enemies I suspect. Could there be a more divisive addition to my list than the inclusion of Duran Duran? The darlings of the New Wave invasion and poster boys for the Video Age, Duran Duran’s assault was a confusing blend of science fiction and occult imagery fused with a synth-pop dynamic. Their sound was unique and, as evidenced by the track “The Chauffeur”, evocative of whimsical poetic expression coupled with a sonic fusion of funk, jazz, and electronica.

My admission to a fondness for Duran Duran compels me to “man up” a bit, so perhaps this is a good time to explore another aspect of musical inspiration to which I turn. I often write from a very visceral and violent place, conjuring up epic battles in my stories that I like to think are tied to the spirited prose of Robert E. Howard. I can think of two songs in particular that never fail to get those respective juices flowing: “I am a Viking” by Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force and “Gimme the Prize”, a track culled from the Highlander soundtrack, performed by the gods of epic rock, Queen.

malmsteen“I am a Viking” is Malmsteen at his frenzied best, with blistering guitar work married expertly to Jeff Scott Soto’s thunderous voice. Brutal and honest, “Viking” is a celebration of violence and mayhem… something also found in Queen’s “Kugan theme” which incorporates this same bloodthirsty revelry, complete with movie sound-bytes and Brian May’s simply majestic invocation of bagpipes on his electric guitar. And Freddy Mercury is simply fierce on this track. Raw masculinity raging unfettered in a near mythological explosion of feral energy.

The common theme here is the invocation and evocation, if you will, of atmosphere and mood. We shall now take a glimpse into the underground to discover Current 93. One of the tracks that finds its way coming from my speakers often is the simply exquisite “Lucifer Over London”. David Tibet’s sublime lyric over the droning and diabolical cadence of a musical mantra pours out as if it’s been painted on a canvas of pure and decadent magic.

cbjohnetteSurreal and engrossing, I have found myself obsessing over Concrete Blonde and the truly masterful vocals of Johnette Napolitano. As a DJ in the mid-nineties I would open each night with “Why Don’t You See Me?” which set the tone for the evening as I sought to bring the crowd to a level of awareness of their own place in the universe. Needless to say, I was not a very successful spinner of vinyl, but the song has remained a staple of my magical and artistic development and it puts me in a special place from which to write from, as the preternatural is unfurled behind the cascading rhythm and dark melody.

dioBut now it seems we’re getting to the meat of it, aren’t we? I write supernatural thrillers and a world populated by fantastical creatures and otherworldly sorceries controlled by forces both good and evil, light and dark. If ever there was a musician who exemplified this conflict, it was Ronnie James Dio. The diminutive vocalist’s work with Ritchie Blackmore in Rainbow exemplified this exploration of light and dark, particularly in the song “Self Portrait”. It is a depressing foray into the dark night of the soul and the track envelops you in its passionate outpouring.

iangillanIf we are to look at passion however, there is but one vocalist who can in turn slay me with every sublime note uttered from his throat. Ian Gillan is as a god who strides the earth, slaying all in his path with an awesome display of raw, fiery emotion. His work with Black Sabbath, especially on the title track to “Born Again”, is a virtuoso performance, with a lyrical content that crawls into your very soul and takes hold of that part of you that longs for something more. The band skillfully plods a course of slow, mind bending destruction as you float in an astral sea surrounded by Perdition’s flame, but it is that voice that spurs you on, uplifting you toward the promise of the ultimate release.

We have now come to the end of our journey. There is but one song left unsung… one tune that seeks to once more carry you off into creative serenity. For this, I’ve got but two words for you: Led Zeppelin.

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When I first began mulling over this article, it was to the Thunder Gods of Rock that I invariably looked. I am an unabashed disciple who bows before the altar of Jimmy Page. Hell, I considered comprising a list of my favorite Zeppelin tracks, or even an examination of each studio album for this little essay.

Such is the power of Zeppelin and their hold over me, but now I’m faced with a dilemma. What song do I turn to in their awesome catalogue? Is there one song that encompasses the power, mystery, and hammer of the gods, as Page so succinctly put it?

The answer is “No”.

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In the end, for my final song selection I say line then all up, each and every track that Led Zeppelin ever produced, and let them roll. From the bombastic metal onslaught of “The Immigrant Song” to the delicate and alternately tuned “Black Mountain Side”, from the sublimely layered majesty of “Kashmir” to the ballsy, bluesy, and poignant “Since I’ve Been Loving You”, from the epic splendour of “Houses of the Holy” to the haunting beauty of my favorite song of all time, “The Rain Song”.

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When I need to find inspiration… when all else fails me… Led Zeppelin is there, tight but loose, bringing the thunder and the lightning of what is and what should never be.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to listen to “In the Evening” then put on the Braveheart soundtrack and write about a growing darkness rising up out of the moors, hungry for the souls of men.

Hallowe’en is over, but Samhain remains.

Posted in Horror, Liber et Audax, Magick by Trial & Error, Occult Detectives, Writing in Theory & Practice on November 1, 2017 by Occult Detective

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Another Hallowe’en has passed. We had a great night. We visited my parents at the Woodcarvers Building and watched some of the kids parade through in their costumes, then headed back home for a bonfire and camp supper.

We ended the evening with some para-entertainment, courtesy of Rob Lowe, and an episode of Lucifer.

All in all, a fine Hallowe’en that came and went too fast. Luckily, we’re still in the throes of Samhain, which will culminate this coming weekend with November’s Frost Moon.

***

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It being November 1st, I can’t let the day pass without acknowledging the birthday of Landon Connors.

Yes, I know, he’s a fictional character, but in truth he’s much more than that. Giving him a birthdate grounded him for me. Knowing how old he was in, say, 1986, helps me make him a living and breathing person.

He was ten, by the way.

Happy 41st Birthday, Landon Connors. I hope there are many more to come…

***

ODQuarterly

If you were one of those who purchased the latest issue of Occult Detective Quarterly and found my Walter Davies tale, “Birds of a Feather”, truncated, fear not. The good folks at ODQ have uploaded the missing words in an Erratum, with future editions having the corrected prose.

***

That’s all for now… I’ve writing to attend to.

All Hallow’s Read 2017

Posted in All Hallows Read, Horror, Writing in Theory & Practice on October 31, 2017 by Occult Detective

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It started on October 23, 2010 with a blog post by Neil Gaiman titled “A Modest Proposal“.

I propose that, on Hallowe’en or during the week of Hallowe’en, we give each other scary books. Give children scary books they’ll like and can handle. Give adults scary books they’ll enjoy.

I propose that stories by authors like John Bellairs and Stephen King and Arthur Machen and Ramsey Campbell and M R James and Lisa Tuttle and Peter Straub and Daphne Du Maurier and Clive Barker and a hundred hundred others change hands — new books or old or second-hand, beloved books or unknown. Give someone a scary book for Hallowe’en. Make their flesh creep…

Give a scary book.

If you don’t know what kinds of books there are, or what would be appropriate for the person you’re giving a book to, talk to a bookseller. They love to help, most of them. (The ones that don’t tend not to be booksellers for long.) Talk to librarians. (Do not plan to give away their books though, unless they are having a library sale.)

That’s it. That’s my idea.

Scary book. Hallowe’en.

Who’s with me?

I, and thousands of others, were and are. To be honest, any excuse to give books as gifts is one worth taking, but I quite like the giving of scary books, as that is, arguably, my raison d’être. The scary part, not necessarily the giving, but I do that too, quite happily and even more so than the receiving end of the exchange for a whole host of messed up reasons that delve back into the annals of time and childhood neuroses.

Anyway. I’m squarely in league with the scary book giving as a Hallowe’en tradition. You should be too. And this year, I believe my family is adopting Jolabokaflod for the Yule season, because, well, BOOKS.

Not familiar? Jolabokaflod or Yule Book Flood is the tradition of gifting books to one another on Christmas Eve and then spending the night reading. The only thing I can think of lovelier than that is All Hallow’s Read, but just because it’s got bats, and ghouls, and spooky things attached.

So, books. Give ’em. For Hallowe’en and Christmas Eve. Hell, I’m thinking of starting a book giving Thanksgiving tradition too… Thanksreading? Booksgiving?

But beyond all that, let me wish you all, my friends and readers, a Happy Hallowe’en and a Blessed Samhain. May all your nightmares come true.

One day till Hallowe’en means it must be Devil’s Night

Posted in All Hallows Read, Horror, Liber et Audax, Occult Detectives, Writing in Theory & Practice on October 30, 2017 by Occult Detective

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Devil’s Night is upon us, a night of pranks and mischief. Unfortunately, good-natured fun (corning or soaping windows, smashing pumpkins, toilet papering trees) can sometimes give way to out-and-out vandalism.

Please, if you’re up to some devilishness this evening, do not include arson or property damage into your repertoire. Have fun, but remember — these are your neighbors.

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— On another note: I drew attention to the latest issue of Occult Detective Quarterly and my short story “Birds of a Feather”. There was a problem with the issue and the last 800 words or so of my tale were inadvertently absent from the edition. This problem is being rectified and I trust no print copies will make it into the wild sans the story’s conclusion.

If so, please contact me and I’ll email you the rest of the third act and epilogue. Same holds true if you are one of the few who was sent a pdf of the issue.

It’s a story I’m quite fond of and would like to make sure you get to read it in toto.

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— Now normally on a Monday night, Connor and I would join some of my oldest and dearest friends in a rousing Roll20 session of D&D, but this week that will not be the case and we’re looking toward spending the night with Kim for a change.

I wonder what sort of infernal tomfoolery will get up to? Only the devil knows for sure, and he’s not telling.

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— In closing, a reminder to embrace All Hallow’s Read. Please, give someone a scary book this Hallowe’en.

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