Who’s in the mood for a collection of supernatural thrillers?

Posted in Horror, Occult Detectives, Writing in Theory & Practice with tags , , , , , on May 25, 2017 by Occult Detective

Cover 01 First BornIt’s official.

I am thrilled to announce that the cover reveal for First Born has dropped over on the website of my publisher, Seventh Star Press.

It’s been a long time coming.

These Liber Monstrorum tales, largely focusing on occult detective Landon Connors, have been near and dear to my heart for the past dozen years or so.

Even the Cairnwood Manor books are interwoven into this surreal landscape of supernatural fiction.

First Born is a collection of occult detective stories, all connected to a larger tapestry. These short tales have been placed in chronological order and served up as a prequel to Descendant, a novel featuring many of the characters you’ll be reading about in First Born. Following Descendant will be the novel Born Again and another collection titled Afterbirth.

Intrigued? Here, have a look at First Born’s backcover synopsis:

From the arcane sorceries of “The Wicked Man in the World” to the supernatural exploits of Occult Detective Landon Connors and the harrowing investigations of Agents Wolfe and Crowe,this collection of macabre tales of the black arts treads the dangerous landscape between this world and that populated by angels and demons, gods and devils, ghosts and spirits, and the legendary creatures of our darkest imaginings.

 First Born is the beginning of the journey into the Liber Monstrorum, the Chronicles of those Occult Detectives who are the last line of defense against those preternatural forces that threaten to destroy a world that refuses to believe that such things exist…

Now, before I slink off to my library and get back to work, I thought I would leave you with this missive written by a good friend and fellow writer. I hope you’ll consider trying First Born on for size.If you’re into supernatural thrillers, then I think it will be a good fit.

by Steven L. Shrewsbury

Someone asked me why I often spell magick with a ‘k’ attached. True enough, I first read of this spelling via the writings of Aleister Crowley and his use of the number eleven (K is the eleventh letter of the alphabet). Frankly, all cool appearances and Hammer of the Gods references aside, I use it to differentiate between what many may call magic. I’m not talking about magic, like sleight of hand with cards, parlor tricks; table knocking or David Copperfield wet dreams. True Magick has meaning, holds power and can be felt.

That said, I believe magick lurks in Bob Freeman’s tales. No deceit, no tricks, no BS. The stories in this collection hold a connecting resonance and flow naturally. I’ve seen many a writer struggle to find their voice or try to use someone else’s. Bob’s voice can reach a fine crescendo, not unlike the sweep of a wand…then rise and fall with the might of a bludgeon. Some folks want to pretty up their yarns, overcome by an overwhelming desire to whip out their throbbing thesauri. Bob tells a story and entertains, as simply as if he sat down on a couch to relate it. A natural storyteller, his opening lines grab hold fast. In “A Murder of Crows” the opening paragraph ends with the line, “The White Christ rose after three days on the cross, could the servant of the rook do less?” I had to find out more.

Some writers can lose their hold on that delightful feeling that can gush in storytelling, instead vomiting prose that sucks more ass than Dracula at a donkey farm. Bob’s sense of reality and desire to comprehend mysteries of the unknown mingle to keep one’s attention. In this connection, he makes one hungry to devour more. Part of his spell comes from life experience, both in harsh times and good, which give each story a firm frame of grit.

If this is your first taste of Bob’s brew, prepare to be hooked. If you’ve read Bob before, these shorter works will only make the head nod in a desire to read more… especially the teasers that lead up to his novel, DESCENDANT. Enjoy this glimpse into his mind.

The tales here breathe, and oft times, there’s a hint of brimstone, perhaps some of that old black magick lurks in the exhale. Bob’s tales are never typical of the classic mystery, noir or horror tale, but he places a fresh polish on certain underpinnings. His narrative in “Ashes to Ashes” dealing with Crowley’s remains, made me say aloud, “Damn, wish I’d have thought of that.” Knowledgeable beyond my vaguest hoping in such lore, he’s never dull. Bob tells a story that draws one in to accept this reality.

These yarns are Bob Freeman’s. Does he remind me of anyone else? Sure, but to say that tale is a Bob Freeman story and holds a unique magick all its own, hey, what more is there to say? He succeeds in getting it across, hitting the mark, weaving his spell.

So, grab a drink, sit down and get comfy. Let’s go to places only Bob Freeman can see and take us to…they are dark places, moody, scary and downright magickal. Get ready. We’ll be there most of the evening.

Steven L. Shrewsbury
Rural Central Illinois

My thoughts on A Dark Song

Posted in Horror, Magick by Trial & Error, Media Macabre on May 19, 2017 by Occult Detective

a dark song

Liam Gavin has delivered an intense and atmospheric occult thriller that is, in a word, absolutely brilliant. Moody and claustrophobic, the tension escalates throughout, and with but two principle players, the stark tapestry woven between them is mesmerizing.

Catherine Walker and Steve Oram are wonderful in this. Walker’s vulnerability and pain are the linchpin to the story, while Oram’s performance perfectly captures so many occultists I’ve had run ins with.


Evoking the Abramelin ritual, carefully constructed and acted, this is a movie about so much more than sorcery as the real magic lies in human emotion, raw and visceral. But magic abounds and is captivating and painful to watch as the drama unfolds.

It’s a beautiful and frightening picture, with a resolution that feels transcendent and important.

This is the second vibrant and exuberant esoteric film I’ve seen this year, the first being The Love Witch, a lustful and decadent camp, that was an utter delight. Now, with A Dark Song, we have a more tenebrous exploration of magical enterprise.

A really cannot recommend this picture highly enough.

Available via Vudu, Amazon, or iTunes

In My Time of Dying

Posted in Liber et Audax on May 18, 2017 by Occult Detective

I woke up this morning to the news that legendary vocalis dei, Chris Cornell, had passed away following a concert in Detroit. He was 52. I’ve spent the day, like many, playing his music, reminiscing with friends online, and generally mourning the loss of such an awesome talent.


I discovered Soundgarden in 1990 via the Pump Up the Volume soundtrack. Their contribution, a song called Heretic, was instantly memorable and led me to seeking out more of their music, but it was 1991’s Badmotorfinger that sealed the deal.

1991 wasn’t a great year for me emotionally or physically. I was in a spiritual funk and, to be honest, a bit burnt out. I was pretty much five or six years into drug and alcohol addiction and pretty frazzled.

Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Nirvana, the Meat Puppets, and a host of other bands from that neck of the woods were a staple. Lots of people considered Cobain the voice of a generation, but I always thought Cornell was the defining figure. His lyrics were insightful, his vocals as powerful as any that had ever erupted out of a pair of speakers.

Now, hours later, it seems all but certain that Chris Cornell took his own life. Death is never welcome, but even less so when it is so senseless. There’s a horrible epidemic in this country. Opium in all its many guises has its grip on far too many.

It’s a bloody shame. I feel for his wife, his children, and everyone who loved him.

Chris Cornell will be sorely missed. Though his body will have left us, his music will last forever…

It is fitting that the last song he performed was “In My Time of Dying”, a traditional blues hymn popularized by Led Zeppelin.

“In my time of dying, I want nobody to mourn. All I want for you to do is take my body home. Well, well, well, so I can die easy…”

Godspeed, Chris Cornell. May you rest in peace.

in salo fluctuans

Posted in Liber et Audax on May 17, 2017 by Occult Detective

brentRaising a horn to the memory of Brent Smith, who would have been 51 today.

I was friends with the guy for 43 years and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of him.

It is generally the simple things that I drift back to.  My ‘go to’ memory is the two of us sitting on the porch on Martin Street, drinking Bud Longnecks, smoking Marlboro cigarettes, and listening to Led Zeppelin III.

What was so special about that afternoon? Not a damn thing. We were just two guys in the prime of life, sitting in the shade, without a care in the world. Brent always had that easy come-easy go attitude that I was jealous of.

Left to my own devices, I would conjure up dark clouds of doom, gloom, and despair, but Brent had a way of making any problem seem trivial and easily vanquished by some good music, cold beer, and plenty of smokes.

I will forever cherish his trademark raised eyebrows and Cheshire Cat Grin that meant he was aiming to misbehave. Well, we did a lot of misbehavin’, Brent and I, and I am confident that wherever he’s at these days, he’s up to more of the same.

I love you, buddy.

A random thought on writing

Posted in Writing in Theory & Practice on May 15, 2017 by Occult Detective

Stories come unbidden at the most inopportune times. Not that I’m complaining. It’s just that I have things to do, mountains to slay, and dragons to climb. And then it happens, the magic voice on the edge of sanity. You know the one, no?

Some stories are spun out by necessity and desire, but others are born of magick and fester until your brain bleeds. You dig what I’m saying, right? You’ve felt it? When the story pours out like a surreal hallucination, images scattershot on the inner canvas, flashes of triangled eyes and cat tongues and arcane writings and hand gestures and sigils and demonic scrawlings in chalk on a playground.


Those are the real stories. The ones from the other place. They’re the tales of yours that you reread and wonder where they really came from and what yarnspinner climbed inside your meat suit and took it for a wild ride through some dark wonderland down under.

Writers come in a variety of sorts, be they gardeners, architects, or psychonauts. I have an affinity for the former and the latter, but particularly the latter. I’ve never felt any kinship toward architectural story building. It seems soulless to me.

A story has to grow organically. It’s a mystery to unravel, as much for me as for the reader. And if that mystery is a magical mystery tour, then all the better.

New Reviews for the Magically Curious

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error on May 11, 2017 by Occult Detective

A couple of years back I reviewed Varla Ventura’s Banshees, Werewolves, Vampires & Other Creatures of the Night and described it as “a delightful little tome, filled with delicious illustrations and wondrous tales, both real and imagined.” Well, I’m delighted to say that Varla is back with a new book, as equally engaging.

varla2Fairies, Pookas, and Changelings: A Complete Guide to the Wild and Wicked Enchanted Realm is the perfect companion to Banshees.

Utilizing Jim Warner and Deborah Dutton again, Weiser Books has pulled out all the stops, crafting a beautifully designed book, accentuating Varla Ventura’s thoughtful and whimsical exploration of these creatures of the fey.

Varla is one of my favorites, and her books are never far from my reach when I’m in the throes of writing another paranormal thriller. The author is a gifted storyteller and she captures the essence of these folk tales and legends and breathes fresh life into them.

I can’t recommend this one highly enough.

I wish I could say the same for Leanna Greenaway’s Wicca, part of Hampton Roads’ Plain & Simple series. Billed as “The Only Book You’ll Ever Need”, I’m here to tell you that’s about as wrong as wrong gets.

wiccaWicca starts out well enough. Judika Illes delivers an erudite introduction that is personal and heartfelt, but from there Leanna Greenaway delivers a very Wicca-lite and very modern approach to the Craft.

I understand that Wicca and Witchcraft has evolved much over the years, that the 70s and 80s are long past, but I am a child of that era and it’s still a fresh and vivid memory for me.

My childhood was filled with the writings of Gerald Gardner, Stewart Farrar, Sybil Leek, Patricia Crowther, Doreen Valiente, and others. My teeth were cut in an Alexandrian Coven in the mid-80s. Leanna Greenaway’s Wicca just doesn’t speak to me.

As a beginner’s primer, it’s harmless, and it has its uses, but to anyone with a few strands of grey in their hair, this book is best passed over. And to be perfectly honest, I didn’t care for the design of the book. The illustrations and diagrams were lifeless and uninspired, matching, I fear, the intensity of the book.

So, there you have it — two reviews, one thumb up and the other one down. Your mileage might vary. Both are readily available online. I recommend you give Varla Ventura’s Fairies, Pookas, and Changelings a look. As for Leanna Greenaway’s Wicca, well, you’ve been warned.

Kick Out the JAMS

Posted in Horror, Occult Detective: The Roleplaying Game, Occult Detectives, Writing in Theory & Practice on May 10, 2017 by Occult Detective

mathers rs

Fans of my Cairnwood Manor series might get a kick out of the faux Rolling Stone cover above. Mathers is a character I enjoyed writing a lot, sort of a cross between Jim Morrison, Jimmy Page, and Dennis Wheatley’s Duke De Richleau. He had a prominent role in Keepers of the Dead, and, I’m happy to report, he will be showing up in the future, both in the novel Born Again and in some short stories I’m working on.

Anyway, the purpose of today’s missive is merely to say that I am overjoyed and excited about some things developing behind the scenes. Nothing concrete, and certainly nothing I want to jinx by dragging them out into the light of day just yet, but my fingers are more than crossed, let me assure you…

In publishing news — Still working on finalizing First Born. We’re a handful of weeks out from the launch and I’m starting to get a bit antsy. A lot hinges on this occult detective collection.

Progress is still being made on Occult Detective: The Roleplaying Game. Crossed a hurdle in regard to the magic system and spell lists. Things are really starting to come together.

Been focusing on Connor’s novels, helping to edit them for publication. He’s essentially created a YA occult detective series from the bare bones of an abandoned idea of mine. He’s done some incredibly unique and wondrous things with it. Makes a father proud.

Hope to squeeze in a couple of book reviews tomorrow, but time is becoming a precious commodity.

Today marks the seventh anniversary of the passing of my favorite artist, Frank Frazetta. He is truly and sorely missed.

Today is also John Constantine’s 64th birthday. Happy Birthday, Con-Job. I miss you too.

Till next time, be well & true…

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