Excerpt from Chapter 2
The carriage jolted along the rough lane. Fog covered the way, and the driver’s lantern turned the mist solid, gray as dirty linen. Branches struck at us before we could see them, scraping the carriage in a series of rending squeals.
We reached the clear stretch approaching home. A hiss carried over the horse’s hooves and the driver’s whistling. The carriage rocked and listed. The horses shied, neighing and stamping.
I gripped the strap, and in a surge of energy to survive, shoved open the door and dove out as the carriage overturned. It tumbled down the ravine, dragging the screaming driver.
A sickening crunch of skull sounded over the rockfall.
I scrambled to the edge. Less fog shrouded the ravine. Moonlight showed his jigsawed corpse on sharp boulders. The poor soul lay broken in every limb, blood pooling beneath his cracked head.
Behind me, a dragging sound. I had no light, no weapon.
Gothic Seduction, or Why I’m Doing This
Influences: Along with indulging my fascination with Edgar Allan Poe, and early exposure to Hitchcock in all his forms, I rampaged through my mother’s Gothics as a child. The lurid covers of gowned heroines dashing down steep .hillsides away from lowering manors remain as vivid to me now as they were alluring then. Some of them were by Phyllis A. Whitney, and I wish I could remember the others.
My mother also took me to horror movies, and this novel is a tribute to one that left its mark on my mind when I was in elementary school.
My mother also had a lot of books on true crime, medical anomalies, real life horrors of all kinds, tabloid weirdness, the supernatural and historical shockers, no doubt leading to my obsession with Ripper lore and many gruesome things that happen to flesh–to the living and the dead.
Later I discovered the Brontës, and later still, Gaywick. I discovered darker things yet, in the flesh, in certain shadowy low-rent parts of San Francisco.
All of these things made me the person I am and the writer I am. I’m still working out my obsessions.
Gothic Horror Meets Unmentionable Deviations
Along with the horror influences, reading novels by Egyptologist Barbara Mertz — aka Barbara Michaels and Elizabeth Peters — taught me to lighten up and include love in my work. That was a stretch for me after many years of being grim.
As odd as it sounds to write about characters as though they have some separate existence outside my control, my protagonists have lately insisted on falling in love.
This is whacked in a way, as I wasn’t intending to write novels that have romantic relationships in them. Damned inconvenient, as it goes against what I had in mind for the novels originally — why is the gay protagonist of my other novel in progress, a mystery/thriller, falling in love not only with one man, but two?
Given the Gothic tradition and the many Gothic romances I whipped through as a child I suppose it makes sense that when I finally write a Gothic novel, heterosexuals have to hook up. It’s not an entirely heterosexual tale, though.
I stopped dating years ago — one of many side effects of shifting from urban life to a tiny town where being different, and shy, is even more excruciating. I take refuge in old-growth redwood forests and along the coast where watching the Pacific surf gives me the sense of sitting on the edge of the world.
And then these people take over my mind and want me to tell you stories. The stories go where the pain is, from separation to love, from enlivening desire to death.
Talking to Demons
I’ve wanted to write a Gothic for years, and thanks to a submission call, I did it last fall. I wrote the first draft faster than I’ve worked in more than a decade, thousands of words a day, possessed.
Somehow I screwed up the word count calculation and thought I fell too short for the Gothic horror novella call. And I couldn’t bring myself to submit fiction that raw. I missed the deadline. So the novel is mine, all mine. Turns out it’s longer than 50k.
I’ve considered sending it off to the editor whose call inspired it. Yet I’m leaning toward self-publishing. This may become my 2nd self-published eBook. Racking up rejections in short fiction for several months — albeit with some shortlisting, encouraging notes from top editors and a few small sales — has left me less than enthusiastic about submitting anything anywhere. Cue worm song.
Then there’s all that control in self-publishing to satisfy my obsessive heart: power over the cover, the format, every word of it, changes in future editions — even audio, paper, illustrated and graphic novel editions down the line… yeah. I can get into that.
The crazy thing is writing this novel cost me almost everything I had left to lose. Horror stories are supposed to stay in written form, that was the contract. Lying demons. So it seems like something ought to come of it, some way to balance the scales and get something back. I’m not sure of anything anymore, so maybe it’s enough that I did it.
So against the demons, I say, I did it.