4 Authors, 4 Tales, 4POCALYPSE


What happens when the world as we know it comes to an end? Will it be with a bang or a whimper? What comes next? Who survives and why? Here are four disparate stories of post-apocalyptic adventure, terror, revenge and love. In The Last Pharmacist, underground cities are dealing with the deadly epidemic of a synthetic heroin supplied by an unknown source. In Smile, the world is overrun by a terrible, terrifying invasion from an unstoppable interloper. In White Sands, a girl searches for the one responsible for the worldwide pandemic that killed her father. In Futureblind, one woman finds that she has survived a horrible fate only to face a unique destiny. Welcome to the 4POCALYPSE – Four Tales Of A Dark Future.


Presented by Dark Red Press, featuring John J. Smith, Jack X. McCallum, C.L. Stegall, and Brian Fatah Steele.  A Kindle exclusive for only $0.99, paperback version available soon.




The Perfect Horror Monster in 10


I get the honors of writing the Guest Blog over at THE FECKLESS GOBLIN today.  A spot of Horror, Dark Fiction & Writing Tips from Ziggy Kinsella, I composed a objective look at the Ten Characteristics that the Perfect Horror Monster must have.  With a deconstructed theme, working more on archetypes and theories, I tried to throw in a bit of laughs along with the all the screaming.

Check it out over at THE FECKLESS GOBLIN.




Dreaming like Randolph Carter

I had this dream for the second time last night.  It was a bit more vague than the first, but the general imagery and sensations were there.  I believe it’s quite telling…


It is a charnel swamp, a bog built out of death.  The blood and bile run in thick currents knee deep, the “vegetation” nothing more than meat.  Bushes of gristle, vines of intestines, trees of bone – these things and more obstructed my passage through this slaughterland.  It was an absurdist blend of overgrown greenhouse and over-enthusiastic butcher shop.  Nothing appeared too far decayed yet, as if the entire environment had been mutilated into existence only hours ago and then held in stasis.

Above me, the sky was burning.  There was no moon or sun present, only rolling fields of liquid fire as far as my eyes could see.  The stratosphere aflame, it provided a dull orange glow to the ground below, everything shimmering and wet.  Here and there, thin clouds of soot raced past, low and insubstantial.

I continued to wade through the gore, this red reality.  I can recall feeling somewhat placid, neither disturbed nor comforted by these sights.  I don’t remember what I wore or for how long I traveled, and perhaps these things were irrelevant.  However, I eventually saw something akin to an island of viscera in the distance.

Drawing closer, I saw this mound was built with the corpses of babies, their flesh sewn and nailed together.  I don’t believe they were human infants, though… their dead eyes still squirmed with a living darkness.  This animated tar-like substance undulated and swayed in a subtle pattern deep in those tiny sockets.

There, sitting on the apex, was some type of throne.  I still can’t properly describe the material or style, nor can I attempt to describe the entity that sat upon it.  Occasionally, I found it humanoid, most often I did not.  I think it may have been composed of that same living darkness, that “deeper black” that I speak of in my fiction, but sharper and more defined.  I have the precise recollection that this abomination was the current king of this realm.

I remember… this monstrosity and I, we gazed at each other for a moment before speaking.  When we spoke, we spoke as equals.  I somehow understood that it acknowledged me as a peer.  I can recall that placid sensation remained, a casual feeling, perhaps closer to boredom or even slight irritation.  I can’t determine what we talked about, but I know the thing gestured off into the distance, and I had a bizarre but distinct feeling wash over me.  It was reminiscent of those time when you can’t find your car keys after having just sat them down, or when a needed word is right on the tip of your tongue.

And that was it.


I believe the first time I had the dream, I may have actually started walking off in the direction indicated by my abhorrent host.  I’m not sure.  I know I awoke before leaving its presence the second time.

I can easily explain away certain elements of the dream.  I had already written a scene with a similar brutal landscape for the novella I’m working on, and I’ve already incorporated portions of this dream into a new part of the fiction.  This “Deeper Black” is a concept I’ve played with in almost all of my horror and paranormal fantasy work.  The entity is undoubtedly from reading far too much Lovecraft.

No, the visuals are meaningless to me, simply window-dressings.  The sensations are what fascinate me, this nonchalant acceptance combined with faint annoyance.  While this is my general state in everyday life, I’m terribly interested on the how’s and why’s this would translate so clearly into such a atrocious dreamscape.  And, of course, I would very much like to discover where I was supposedly journeying off next to.

Once, I used to dream on par with Lovecraft’s great reoccurring character, Randolph Carter.  Various medications stole much of that from me, most of my dreams now either utterly mundane (going to the store to get lunchmeat) or a jumbled sensory-salad of images, sounds and concepts that would make Salvador Dali weep.  The majority of people would find such a dream like I’ve described above horrific, a nightmare to be banished.  I find it hopeful, something to return to.

And if I’m lucky, perhaps, I’ll be able to get my bearings back in the slaughterlands and travel even farther…



Soundtrack to the Story

I have almost 10k words done for the anthology piece due to Dark Red Press on the 20th of January.  I’m pretty sure it’s only half done.  15,000 words was my minimum, but I know I’ll go over that and hit closer to 20k.  It’s a post-apocalyptic tale, just as the other 3 will be from the other DRP authors, for a book entitled 4POCALYPSE.  An interesting premise, each of us taking a spin on that speculative fiction sub-genre.  Like an idiot, I decided to set mine in the ruins of 2270 and fill it with advanced tech and my twist on zombies.  (I didn’t foresee the amount of research that would have to go into this one.)

As with all of my longer works, it took me a while to find the “voice.”  Mostly, this was because I hadn’t found the soundtrack yet.  Each of my novels or e-novellas have had their own selection of music.  THE STITCHING was done entirely to Murder By Death, while IN BLEED COUNTRY had a lot of Puscifer and Tool.  A COMPLICATED DIVINE was set to Alkaline Trio and other modern punk bands, while my out-of-print novel BETWEEN US AND OBLIVION was penned exclusively to the post-rock band 65DaysOfStatic.  It took me a while, but this current novella is getting hammered out to a mix of DeadMau5, Skrillex and The Glitch Mob.  The music created by those groups fit the vibe of the tale.

I know some authors who must write in near silence – that would drive me insane.  At the same time, once I’ve found my tale’s soundtrack, I won’t listen to it during the writing process except when I’m actually writing the story.  It forces me to keep going and doesn’t dilute the feeling.  When I’m writing random articles, blogs (or just pissing about on Facebook), I find any instrumental post-rock works well for me.  While emotive and creative, it almost acts as a default sound to be, those guitars from This Will Destroy You and Explosion in The Sky and the vocals from Sigur Ros.

After this novella is done, the sequel to IN BLEED COUNTRY is supposed to be next on my plate.  Perhaps I’ll find the soundtrack in one of Maynard Keenan’s acts again, but I wouldn’t necessarily say it was set in stone.  Certain aspects of a story writes itself, and a tale demands its own tune.

My Murder

I feel a certain kinship with darker things.  I don’t know, I suppose I feel as if there is more validity in it than in any pretty social niceties.  Darkness is the natural state of things, much like chaos, a default that can only be partially limited by the occurances of light and order.  The latter two are imposed, the former simply our primordial origins.  But we so do like to delude ourselves that we have some iota of control.  The beautiful absurdity of the universe can come visiting whenever it chooses.

Tonight, I opened my front door at 6:15pm, preparing to walk a few blocks to a planned destination.  As I put on my coat, I heard what I thought was rainfall, perhaps even hail.  It wasn’t.  Although I had grabbed my umbrella there by the door, I walked out onto my porch to discover the sound I had heard was the beating of wings – hundreds of them.  Across the street, in the two mammoth trees, swarms of darkness fluttered, then black waves rolling up through the sky.  It was a “Murder” of Crows, the term given to a flock of this type, but more gathered than I had ever seen in one place.  Ink spills shifting before the stars, so many of them that I had honestly mistaken their sound for that of a storm.  A murder of crows?  I looked above and saw a killing spree’s worth.

Perhaps others would have felt dread, or at least anxiety.  While I was initially astonished, the sensations were more likened to… awe.  Inspiration and even joy.

The crows, they did not follow me.  I think I would have liked that.  I reached my destination and frantically asked others assembled if they had seen such feathered hordes.  No one had, and most looked at me a bit incredulously (as per usual). However, when I returned no more than a hour later with my father, he too saw the Xenocide Of Black Aves, heard their mockery of rain.  And even a man as well-educated and traveled as my father was struck by experience.  At least someone besides myself witnessed this brutal mass-Murder.

Minutes ago, I stepped outside once more… just to see, just to know.  Less, but still easily one hundred crows sat silently in the treetops.  I clapped only a single time, loud and echoing at 2:30am early on a Monday morning.  It sounded like a bag of nails being scattered across a tiled floor, I could almost feel the wind from their wings and weight of them released.  Midnight ribbons slashing through the air, only for a moment, then settling back to their perches.  Just birds, nature in motion, but we all know how particular events can cause more wild reactions in the prinitive portions of our gestalt consciousness.  Reason can be shredded against the might of the deeper human psyche, and many would have found this incident disturbing in some manner.

But I didn’t.

I smiled.  I smiled and I hope they will remain my neighbors for a while…



4POCALYPSE promo art for Dark Red Press