Archive for the Writing Category

St. George’s Eve

Posted in Current Events, Writing on May 4, 2022 by Occult Detective

Wednesday, the fourth of May. Star Wars Day for most of nerd culture, but also St. George’s Eve, if you follow the old Eastern Orthodox calendar and want to get really nerdy.

“Do you know what day it is?” I answered that it was the fourth of May. She shook her head as she said again: “Oh, yes! I know that! I know that, but do you know what day it is?” On my saying that I did not understand, she went on: “It is the eve of St. George’s Day. Do you not know that to-night, when the clock strikes midnight, all the evil things in the world will have full sway?” — Bram Stoker, Dracula

I have had vampires on the brain (werewolves, witches, and liches too) of late.

Dragonslaying. That’s what St. George was on about, and in a sense, Van Helsing and company as well. We all have our dragons to slay. Some great. Some small. But slay them we must, or die in the attempt.

Of course, the great dragon, it seems, as always, is that of government and their perchance to overreach. They’re looking to strike down Roe v Wade and thus spark a cavalcade of abortion bans in Republican strongholds.

Rights do not emanate from government, but belong inherently to each of us. We are not government property. We need to demand that our Personal Liberty not be infringed upon. What represents freedom more than having Bodily Autonomy? No government is valid if those tenets are not met. Government should serve the people, not lord over them.

Government should have no right to tell anyone what they must or must not do with their bodies. This is true of a woman seeking an abortion, of Man refusing a vaccination, or the willful choice to ingest substances such as cannabis, psilocybin, or other naturally occurring medicinals.

Government, it seems, has assumed the role of the Dragon. It need be tamed or slain.

Yes, we all have our dragons to slay. Big and small.

That said, I wish you luck in the slaying of yours.

I have many adventures ahead, and I look forward to sharing them with you.

May the Fourth Be With You…Always.

Currently writing: Unnamed Comic Project, Unnamed Board Game Project, Unnamed Folk Horror short story, Unnamed Non-Fiction Occult article

Currently watching: Parks and Rec and Northern Exposure with Kim & Conn, Hannibal with Conn, Travel the Dead and Portals to Hell on my own.

Currently playing: D&D 5e, Wordle, Quordle, Classic Words (Scrabble), Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, and Elder Sign

Currently reading: 666, Sex, & the New Aeon of Horus by Richard Cole

Currently spinning: Kansas — Masque

Now Available: Running Home to Shadows: Memories of TV’s First Supernatural Soap from Today’s Grown-Up Kids #DarkShadows

Posted in Horror, Media, Writing on April 7, 2022 by Occult Detective

The anthology Running Home to Shadows: Memories of TV’s First Supernatural Soap from Today’s Grown-Up Kids is now available on Amazon, and for less than $10. Invited to submit my history with the famed cult classic, I was also able to introduce Jim Beard, our esteemed ringleader, to both Mark Rainey and Elizabeth Massie, two of my favorite authors, and who co-penned my favorite Dark Shadows novel, Dreams of the Dark.

Dark Shadows meant everything to me as a child, and being given the opportunity to share my love for Shadows and Dan Curtis was a thrill. The fact that this anthology was put together to honor Jim’s late wife, author Becky Beard, made the experience all the more poignant. And I got to share a Table of Contents with some of my favorite people.

If you’re a fan of Dark Shadows, then this anthology is the love letter you’ve been waiting for.

School’s out, Barnabas is IN!

They were a generation all their own, the army of children who ran home from school to watch Dark Shadows, TV’s very first supernatural soap. A breed apart, they set aside the worship of mundane pop stars to follow vampires, witches, and werewolves. From 1966 to 1971, they were daytime Monster Kids…and today they have stories to tell.

Writer-editor Jim Beard has gathered these grown-up kids together in this tome to tell those tales. Their experiences are sometimes tragic and terrifying, yet also uplifting and inspirational, but above all, Dark Shadows touched them so deeply as to leave an indelible impression on their lives that lasts to this day.

Return to Collinwood to brave the stormy nights and rainswept days of yore to listen to this coven of writers spin yarns of childhood encounters with Barnabas, Angelique, Quentin, Vicky, Maggie, and their compatriots. Cross the threshold of the Old House, take a seat by the crackling fire, and make yourself comfortable to the strains of maudlin music issuing forth from the gramophone—the ghosts of the past are about to arise in RUNNING HOME TO SHADOWS. Won’t you join us?

Edited by Jim Beard with Charles R. Rutledge

Cover Illustration by Mark Maddox with Logo Design and Formatting by Maggie Ryel

Foreword by Kathryn Leigh Scott

Featuring Essays by Greg Cox, Mark Dawidziak, Dave Dykema, Bob Freeman, Ed Gross, Nancy Holder, Tina Hunt, Katherine Kerestman, Mark Maddox (with Ed Catto), Elizabeth Massie, Kimberly Oswald, Martin Powell, Dana Pride, Mark Rainey, Michael Rogers, Charles R. Rutledge, Chris Ryan, Frank Schildiner, Duane Spurlock, and Jeff Thompson.

Afterword by Rich Handley

Addendum: A big shout out to our editors. Jim was great to work with and extremely communicative (and he delivered a heartfelt introduction), and my pal Charles Rutledge was a lifesaver, catching a slight error that really improved my essay. Cheers to both.

Writing in Four Colors (Redux)

Posted in Writing on March 23, 2022 by Occult Detective

I have a lot of great memories from the time I spent working in the small press trenches with Lion’s Den Studios. We fought the good fight for 19 years, and prior to digital, had a lot of success selling ashcans and the like. As publishing evolved, we made a lot of initial mistakes, many of which eventually sunk us, but I was always scrambling, trying to get us out of the small press and saddled to a mainstream project.

We had talented creators on our staff and a kick-ass studio to work out of. We were on the brink of all our dreams coming true…

Knightshade & Sangrael stand watch over our Studio entrance.
My lettering/editorial desk.
Ye Olde Drafting Table

We came so close to that proverbial brass ring on more than one occasion. My favorite near miss was when I reached out to actress Elizabeth Gracen with the idea of creating a comic book character based on her likeness. I was (and am) a huge fan, born from admiring her performance as Amanda on the series Highlander and its spin-off, The Raven.

We negotiated a deal that included her joining us at conventions for signings, and she was interested in discussing plot and development. It was an exciting time. With this, I began talks with various publishers, eventually earning the interest of Marc Silvestri’s Top Cow.

Our Elizabeth Gracen comic, which we were calling Iron Maiden, was tailor-made for Top Cow, who were at the top of their game at the time, publishing Witchblade, The Darkness, and The Magdalena, among others.

Everything was going swimmingly, and we were set to produce a Witchblade story for one of their anthologies, with Iron Maiden still in negotiation, but things didn’t work out. Without going into the sordid details, deadlines were missed, and, well, there the dream died.

I was heartsick over it. That failed experience led me to closing the doors on Lion’s Den Studios, and I walked away from comics, concentrating on my writing career. But man, for a time there, we were almost living the dream. Almost.

Writing in Four Colors

Posted in Writing on March 22, 2022 by Occult Detective

As I’m sure many of you know, I began my writing “career” penning comics for a small press I co-founded back in 1987. We shuttered Lion’s Den Studios in 2006 and I pretty much thought I was done with comics then.

I dabbled a few times since, releasing some Landon Connors stories here and there, doing some illustration work for Scott Story and Cullen Bunn, and I even toyed with the idea of launching a new comic book small press called Occult Detective dot Comics.

Of course, comics have always been near and dear. For a time I penned reviews and articles for Paint Monk’s Library, but truth be told, few modern comics appeal to me. For a long time I have not felt like the target audience for most comic creators, with some very notable exceptions. I still read a lot of comics, and continue to follow certain writers and artists who keep that childhood obsession alive for me.

All this to say, I am currently co-writing a comic script. While we’re still negotiating the reality of it, I couldn’t resist putting words on proverbial paper. It’s becoming a thing, even while it might not officially happen. Still, it’s fun and exciting and I just love massaging those old comic writing muscles.

Stay tuned for some occult action in four colors? Maybe. It feels right… like it just might be the right kind of real, and will be so, so long as the gods are willing and the nukes don’t fly.

incendium – a poem

Posted in Writing on February 16, 2022 by Occult Detective

a soulless regress
i’ve been laid to waste
alone in solace
your sins erased
i picture a reel
bloodless repose
melting frames
overexposed
the moon is a lie
the sun does the same
the stars are aligned
but don’t remember
your name

i’m not right again
left behind again
as you melt around me

one more chance
one last time
a fatal mistake
the doorbell chimes
blood on my hands
the stain’s on your soul
a mound of remorse
in god’s cereal bowl
i needed you then
you needed me now
a soulless regress
and a murder
most foul

i’m not right again
left behind again
as you softly whisper

incendium
maleficium
spiritus
sanctum

and you melt
around me

—BF 2/16/22

Yuletide Spirits: Dreams of Winter (4/4)

Posted in Horror, Occult Detectives, Writing, Yuletide on December 5, 2021 by Occult Detective

Dreams of Winter
(originally published in Vampires Don’t Sparkle)

IV

I stagger through the thick snow, following the vampire’s trail into the woods that run alongside Pipe Creek. My vision is blurred and I’m losing too much blood. I cast a quick spell, but it’s a mere band-aid. My whole world is pain. I set it aside and press on. The cruor geminus will not go far. It can’t. The smell of my blood will be too much for it to ignore. It will come for me and most likely finish me off, but not without a fight.

            My head is swimming now. I’m in someone’s backyard. I can hear the creek behind me, smell the pine of the woods. I don’t know how I got here. Everything’s coming and going in flashes. The bite on my arm isn’t deep, but it’s poisonous. The vampire’s foul venom is working its way through my system. I have to find it. Have to end this. A shadow ahead. I see a manger scene, the baby Jesus surrounded by its mother and father, animals and wisemen. The shadow is framed by a Christmas Angel hovering above the manger, its lights blinking in an eclectic rhythm. My heart thunders in time with those angel wings.

            “Landon.”

            The voice is coming from the angel.

            I stagger toward it, lumbering, limping against the pain in my ravaged knee, cane dragging along through the snow loosely, carving a snaking trail through the fresh powder. The shadow comes forward revealing a different angel.

            “Sarah,” I choke. I taste blood on my lips. “You shouldn’t… be here. Run, young one. Be safe.” I lose my footing and descend to the ground onto my hands and knees. “Run, damn it.”

            “No, Landon,” she says. She lowers herself to me, cups my face in her hands. “I’ll not abandon you, my dear sweet Doctor.” I’m lost in her eyes. In her youth… her beauty. She leans in toward me, lips parting, coming dangerously close to mine.

            This is how it ends for the occult detective? With a kiss from a fiery-haired angel, bled out in the snow with the failed dream of winter on my lips? I rise up on my knees as she lays my head to the side. Her lips brush mine on her way to my neck. I feel her hot breath on my cold flesh. Then she’s gone… an explosion erupts across the lawn and I see two Sarahs — one struggling up from the ground, a spray of blood across the virgin snow —  the other holding a smoking Ruger .357.

            “Get away from him, you monster!”

            The beast transforms before my eyes. Sarah no more as it assumes the shape of Edward and marches toward her. Sarah fires again, and once more, but the fiend shrugs them off. I reach deep down inside me and rise, raising my cane and swinging it with all my might. It connects with the back of the cruor geminus’ head. The beast spins about and I charge.

            With the cane before me like a knight’s lance, I drive the shaft home, straight through the vampire’s chest, piercing the foul thing’s heart and driving it back into the manger. The angel overhead comes crashing down and the cruor geminus becomes entangled in the wire frame and blinking lights. As the sun rises, the fiend dies before our eyes, its body bound by the illuminating lights of a Christmas Angel.

            “Huh,” Sarah says, “I guess sometimes vampires do sparkle.”

The End

Yuletide Spirits: Dreams of Winter (3/4)

Posted in Horror, Occult Detectives, Writing, Yuletide on December 4, 2021 by Occult Detective

Dreams of Winter
(originally published in Vampires Don’t Sparkle)

III

Magick has its advantages. Case in point, I am standing in the corner of a fifteen year old girl’s bedroom, completely invisible to any who might look my way. No scent to detect, no heat signature to register, not even the sound of my breathing can be heard. On the bed, Sarah Jones, lies suggestively draped across the top of her pink and mauve comforter, dressed in a black tank top and skirt that makes her pale flesh seem like alabaster. As she clicks away on her laptop computer, I make the mental calculations necessary to ensure that she does not become victim number four.

            I know what you’re thinking. No, I’m not some kind of pervert, though I might be scolded for placing such a young and vibrant child in mortal danger. Thing is, Sarah Jones is not your average fifteen year old. Imagine Nancy Drew, if you will, but with a bit more piss and vinegar. As Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes had his Baker Street Irregulars, I too have allies that fall somewhat south of the legal drinking age. Sarah is a paranormal investigator, being an integral cog in the so-called Ghostwriters Society that are comprised of author Steven Parker’s sons Dale and Allen, and Sarah’s cousin Cassidy Martin. They have been tested by fire on more than one occasion. Still, I feel somewhat guilty for using the fiery-haired teen as my proverbial hare in a snare. She was, of course, willing enough. Quite eager even. But as a rock gently raps against her bedroom window, I pray that my confidence in hers and my ability is not found wanting.

            Sarah rolls off the bed and approaches the window. She steals a glance toward me and I grind my teeth in anticipation. It must be unnerving for her, trusting that, though she cannot see me, I am in fact there ready to spring into action. She grips the window and opens it cautiously, the bitter cold of winter racing into the room.

            “Hello, Bella,” I hear the cruor geminus say. Softly. Seductively. “May I come inside?”

            Does her skin crawl? No. I see her sway, sense her body’s relaxing shift from heightened awareness to that of wanton desire. Can the creature’s powers be so overwhelming? She backs away from the window and calls to him.

            “Come to me, my love.”

            She is entranced. There is no mistake. My plan is unraveling before me. I prepare a counter spell, but already it’s too late. The creature is inside the room in an instant. She and I see it as it wishes to be seen, as a handsome young man with powder white flesh and full, pouting lips. It’s hair in a mock pompadour, flashing pearly white teeth behind golden eyes. The illusion is intoxicating, even for me. It leans in toward Sarah, its lips parted, moist and hungry.

            Leaping forward from my concealing spell, the head of my cane flares to life, bright and as radiant as the sun. It is enough to give the beast pause. What I didn’t expect was for Sarah to turn on me, grabbing a pair of scissors from her nightstand, and charging at me like a thing possessed. Yes, possessed — enthralled — and filled with lustful desire for her faux-Edward.

            I raise my cane too late as the scissors find the back of my hand. As I push her aside, I am met by the creature’s full force as it barrels into me, knocking me into the girl’s closet, splintering the bi-fold doors. I collapse to the floor, clothes falling from the rack overhead, blinding me as a rain of furious blows connect with my ribs, arm, and face. It’s fangs find bare flesh. It burns like fire. The smell and taste of my blood has the beast in a ravenous frenzy. It is by sheer willpower that I am able to conjure a magical counter to its devastating assault.

            A blast of eldritch energy explodes from my left hand hurling the cruor geminus into the far wall. I struggle to my feet, telekinetically call my cane back into my bleeding right hand, and approach the foul creature wearing a heartthrob’s face. Bearing its fangs, I grimace as I meet its aggression by swinging the cane like a bat, striking the beast full in the face. The cruor geminus falls back and through the window amidst a crash of broken glass. I approach cautiously but caught unprepared as Sarah buries the scissors into my right shoulder. I scream in agony, but am able to turn and grab the girl by her face.

            “Quiesco,” I say, softly, and Sarah Jones crumbles to the ground.

            The pain is exquisite. It sets my mind afire and it’s all I can do to jerk the instrument free. I stumble forward, to the window, and climb out, bleeding profusely from hand and shoulder. I can feel my ribs grinding in my chest and I’m all but certain that I’ve a fractured forearm.

            This is not how I’d planned tonight’s operation.

Yuletude Spirits: Dreams of Winter (1/4)

Posted in Occult Detectives, Writing, Yuletide on December 2, 2021 by Occult Detective

Dreams of Winter
(originally published in Vampires Don’t Sparkle)

I

A line from Longfellow comes to me as I stare at the pale, lifeless child at my feet. ‘The leaves of memory seemed to make a mournful rustling in the dark.’ The Dark, capital ‘D’, if you don’t mind, has been of particularly nagging interest to me of late. As for mournful rustlings, well I’ve been knee-deep in those too. And it’s starting to piss me off.

            Surrounded by the girl’s belongings, it’s not hard to fathom how Megan Gamble’s mind worked. There’s a poster of a shirtless Alexander Skarsgard on the back of her door. Bookshelves overflow with Jim Butcher, Laurell K. Hamilton, Kim Harrison, and Charlaine Harris urban fantasies, a well-read copy of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight rests on the nightstand. Evanescence, Pretty Reckless, and Nightwish CDs are scattered on the floor beside an old school jam-box. The clothes in her closet? All black and lots of lace and frills, plunging necklines and short skirts.

            I crack a window, light a cigarette, and watch the snow fall. Dreams of winter, I muse. No more dreams for her. I’ve got the itch for a drink, but I let the nicotine placate my self-destructive tendencies for now. I do my best to ignore the sounds of the cops behind me, grumbling about their business and their distaste for my presence. The feeling’s mutual. Grim thoughts give way to grim tidings and I’m on the verge of giving myself over to them, but there’s work to get to. Dark work.

            I flick the spent cowboy killer into the night air and ask the crime scene unit to give me a few minutes alone with the corpse. They look to the homicide detective at the door, my old pal Ellis DeTripp, and grouse at his nod of approval. They file past the hulk of a man — DeTripp stands an easy  six feet-four inches and tips the scales at more than twenty-two stone — and he closes the door behind them.

            “You too, Ellis,” I say, removing my coat and hat and laying them on the girl’s bed.

            “In your dreams, Connors. No freaking way I’m leaving you in here unsupervised.”

            “What’s the matter, Detective,” I scowl, “afraid I’ll lift something?”

            “Nah.” He kneels down awkwardly beside the girl’s body. “We already searched the room for drugs.”

            “She’s got the latest Dresden Files.”

            “Cute, but I know you don’t read that shit.” DeTripp casually traces the outline of the girl’s jawline with his fat forefinger, lingering near the gaping but bloodless wound at her throat. “You live it.”

            “What? You never climb inside a Michael Connelly novel?” I join him on the floor, just as awkwardly, my ruined knee groaning in protest. Without the support of my cane, an heirloom from late father’s collection, I’d be all but worthless in situations like these. Dead bodies require an up close and personal touch.

            “That’s different. Harry Bosch is the real deal.”

            I brush the big man’s hand away from the girl and examine the throat wound more closely. “And Harry Dresden isn’t?” I frown at the lack of blood, on the body or anywhere in the  room for that matter.

            “You know I don’t cater to all that magic mumbo-jumbo crap.”

            “And yet,” I say as I allow my hand to hover above the victim’s head, the telltale glow of magical energy sparking between my fingertips, “here I am.”

            “Again — different.”

            “Do tell?”

            “Meh,” he barks, groaning as he rises up from the floor, “just give me your goddamn theory so I can catch whoever did this before my ass is in a sling.”

            “Well, she was definitely killed here.”

            “Bull shit. No blood.”

            “Of course not.” I struggle to my feet, leaning heavily on father’s cane. “The killer took it with him.”

            “Landon Connors, I swear on my mother’s grave…”

            “Your mother’s alive. I had dinner with her last week.”

            “Just don’t freaking say what I know damn good and well you’re going to say.”

            “Fine.”

            We stare at each other uncomfortably long — he with a scowl, me with bemused acceptance. I know what’s coming next. I light a cigarette and wait for him to break.

            “Alright,” he barks, “…alright. Go ahead and say it.”

            “If you insist.” I exhale slowly. “Detective DeTripp, your killer is, without a doubt, a bloodsucking creature of the night.”

            “God damn it, I knew you were going to pull that shit on me.”

            The detective turns toward the door and throws it open in a huff, storming into the hall and past the awaiting crime scene investigators.

            “Would you have preferred that I used the word vampire?” I yell after him.

            He is not amused.

A Man Grown

Posted in Current Events, Writing on October 9, 2021 by Occult Detective

Today, my son Connor celebrates his 18th Birthday. I am staggered by this. The boy becomes a man…

The truth is, he’s been a man for some time. Mature beyond his years, he has always possessed a rapier sharp intellect and an understanding of human behavior.

As a writer, he has grown immeasurably, producing wonderful, fantastical tales prolifically. He has a bright future ahead of him.

As a father, I couldn’t be more proud of him. I will miss the boy he was, but I embrace and cherish the man he is.

Happy Birthday, Connor. I love you beyond words.

All Things Must Pass

Posted in Horror, Occult Detectives, Tarot, Writing on June 29, 2021 by Occult Detective

Soon, the Cainwood Manor series (Shadows Over Somerset / Keepers of the Dead) and the Liber Monstrorum series (First Born / Descendant) will be reissued in trade paperback and hardcover editions. Their covers will be adorned with selections from the limited edition Landon Connors: Occult Detective Tarot. These releases will be followed by Born Again, a collection that will bring both series to conclusion.

The Moon — Shadows Over Somerset
Deception. Illusion. Imagination. Things around you are not what they appear to be.

High Priestess — Keepers of the Dead
Mystery. Reflection. A time for retreat. Things around you are not what they appear to be.

The Magician — First Born
Skill. Creativity. Desire. Manifestation. The need to take deliberate action is called for.

Justice — Descendant
Truth. Fairness. Law and order. A time for hard decisions to be made.

Judgement — Born Again
Awakening. Transition. Renewal. It is the bitter end, but also a dynamic new beginning.

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