That Awkward Moment…

Hey there. It’s been a while.

Updating this blog is like trying to get together with someone  you haven’t seen for years. At first, you mean well, you say, “Yeah, let’s get together for lunch or something!” And you really intend to, but for whatever reason life gets in the way and it never happens. Time goes by, and you keep thinking, Hey, I need to follow up and call them again. But then you realize that’s become so long that it’s awkward now, and you deliberately make a point to remain distant because you feel like too much time has passed. And then you get old and die.

Wow, that got dark really fast.

What I’m trying to say is, here I am. I’m making the attempt, for whatever it’s worth.

Sadly, not a whole heck of a lot has happened since my last update. I’ve finished first drafts on two different works. The first one is my NaNo novel I started a couple of years ago and have been slowly trudging through since. I finally finished it a couple weeks ago, coming in at a whopping 156,000 words. That’ll need to be trimmed down a bit, and I’m already in the process of a first editing pass. I’m mainly just trying to close a few of the gigantic gaping plot holes I created for myself and generally clean it up a bit, then I’ll let a few people read it to get some feedback before diving in for the rewrite. I feel like it has a lot of problems, but with some TLC it could really be something special.

The second one is a much smaller story, about 15k words at the moment that I’m going to work to extend out to novella length for the rewrite. It’s hard to describe, but it’s essentially a cyberpunk-horror mashup. It has nowhere near the scope as the novel, but it’s a fun little romp so far. We’ll see where it lands.

Otherwise, I’ve got lots of new ideas for stories, but I feel like I need to get these last two done and dusted before moving on. I have a bad habit of starting things and never finishing them, so I’m taking a stand here and getting these complete before moving on. Wish me luck.

And let’s not wait so long to get together again, huh?

Flash Fiction: Random Words

So there’s this guy, Chuck Wendig, who posts a prompt every Friday for readers of his blog to write a piece of flash fiction (less than 1000 words). I’ve participated in these a couple of times, but never actually posted anything here. This week, I’m changing that. So, this week’s challenge?

Pick three words from a list of ten, and write a story around them.

I did a random roll, and to make this slightly more fun, I’ll post the three words I ended up with after the story. That way you can try to figure them out before hand. Though I’m pretty sure you’ll figure them out.

Hope you enjoy it!

***

Egression

As a child, Danielle Jerram had always fantasized about going to the moon one day. Now that she was actually here, all she could think about was getting off the cursed rock as soon as possible. Her eyes darted out the window of the small coffee shop to the narrow street lit by harsh artificial sunlight, expecting the looting and riots to begin at any moment. So far though, the evacuation had been a peaceful one. For that she was grateful.

A cracked television screen hanging in the corner of the room flashed scenes of chaos and confusion. People running from their houses to hop aboard transport carriers, all of them dragging whatever belongings they could carry along for the ride. Bold letters at the bottom of the screen displayed:

TERRAN & LUNAR TENSIONS RISE, EVACUATIONS UNDERWAY

A news ticker ran underneath it in smaller letters, listing the various domed cities scattered across the surface of Luna where Terrans would be allowed to leave unimpaired. A classically styled jukebox sat on the wall close to her, currently spinning the greatest hits of a woman named Billie Holiday. She had never heard her music before, but found herself immediately drawn to it, a relaxed blues number that the jukebox’s digital display showed to be Blue Moon. She sighed and returned her attention to the street outside, tucking a stray lock of short black hair behind her ear.

She was sipping on a lukewarm cup of synthetic coffee, her other hand fidgeting nervously with a loose thread hanging from her navy blue blazer, when the shop’s front door opened and an electronic chime sang out. Danielle turned to face the door and watched a young woman walk through the door. She was graceful, beautiful, with auburn hair and green eyes, dressed in khaki pants and a stained orange blouse. She looked just like her father.

The woman’s eyes swept across the room until they locked with hers. Danielle stood to her feet as she walked over. She wanted to reach out and hug her, to tell her she was sorry and that she was going to fix everything. Instead, she smiled and shoved her hands in her pockets.

“Hi Mom,” the woman said, looking Danielle up and down once, twice. They sat down in the booth.

“Hello Jessica.” Danielle stared at her face, the unblemished, tanned skin, the carefree way she crossed her arms and tilted her head to one side. “You’re so grown up. It’s good to see you.”

“Thanks. You look good, Mom. I’m glad you’re taking care of yourself.” The two of them didn’t say anything for a long moment after that. It had been five years since they’d last seen each other. She thought they would have plenty to talk about. There were many things she once thought that she didn’t anymore.

Danielle’s eyes again glanced at the television, now directly behind where Jessica sat across from her. The scene had changed to a wide angle shot of rows of space carriers, a seemingly countless number of the monolithic vessels arranged roughly in a grid pattern. The shot was framed from the perspective of Luna’s capital city, Aldrin, which could just be seen at the right of the picture, with the carriers filling up the vast empty space in the middle. On the left side of the frame, the Earth glowed like the great blue marble it had always been. The header text had changed, and now read:

TERRAN BLOCKADE HOLDS, GREAT DIVORCE IMMINENT

The jukebox had faded into a different Billie Holiday song. Her raspy, yet somehow smooth vocals sang an easy, sad tune.

Them that’s got shall get
Them that’s not shall lose
So the Bible said and it still is news…

“I don’t know how to say this exactly,” Danielle finally said, “so I’m just going to come out with it. I want you to come back to Earth with me. It’s not safe for you here.”

Jessica laughed, a dry, humorless laugh that sank Danielle’s spirits. “This is my home now Mom. I have a life here, a husband, a purpose. You want me to just leave all that behind because you’re scared of this Great Divorce thing?”

“I know you think this is all being overblown, but…”

“You don’t know anything,” Jessica said in a firm but calm voice, cutting her off. “I haven’t seen you in years. You think just because you’re some kind of diplomat you can come in here and, what, steal me away? You don’t know anything about me.”

Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own
That’s got his own

Danielle swallowed, relying on her years of training to hold down her emotions. “This is bigger than you know, Jessica. This could lead to all out war. I just want to protect you.”

Jessica stood to her feet and started for the door. Danielle also stood and reached out a hand when Jessica spun around to face her again.

“If Dad were still here, what would he do? Would he leave everything behind just because things got tough?” Danielle stared at her daughter, her eyes welling up at the memory of her husband. Jessica continued, “Dad was a hero. He always stuck it out, no matter what. So will I.”

Before Danielle could say anything else, Jessica turned and strode out of the coffee shop. Danielle sat back down at the table, her daughter’s last words still ringing in her ears along with the haunting melody flowing from the jukebox.

He just worry ’bout nothin’
Cause he’s got his own

It was now 1300 Terran Standard Time. The last shuttle would leave in less than an hour. Danielle got up once again, smoothed the front of her blazer, and walked out the front door. Outside, the empty streets echoed the song within.

***

The Random Words:

1. Moon
2. Divorce
3. Holiday

Thanks for reading!

Free Shock Totem

Want to read some of the best short horror fiction on the market today? Want to read it for FREE? Then you’re in luck! This week only, Shock Totem is offering up their first five issues in e-book format from the Amazon Kindle store for the low low cost of nothing! Time is limited however, so hurry up and get in on this.

Head on over to Shock Totem’s website to find out more.

I’m a little late here spreading the word, so unfortunately it means if this is the first time you’re hearing about this promotion then you’ve already missed the first issue. However, you can still get Issues 2-5 between now and Saturday if you get a move on.

Of course, I’d love for you to pick up Issue #4 on Thursday or Friday in particular, where you can read my short story-in-verse, Lobo. However, that’s far from the only reason you should pick all of these up. I’ve read through all the first five issues and the holiday issue, and the quality of fiction in this magazine is absolutely through the roof. I was a big fan of Shock Totem before I even thought about submitting there. There are some amazing stories here, from the likes of John Skipp, Kurt Newton, Lee Thompson, and many others. Basically, I probably shouldn’t even be in the same company as these fine writers, but there you go.

And while you’re there, you really should support them by actually putting down a little scratch and picking up the brand new Issue #6. I haven’t done so myself yet, but fully intend to soon, and I’ve heard it may be the best issue yet.

Shock Totem 6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what are you waiting for? They won’t stay free forever. Get going!

Scriptwriting

When I first started to get serious about writing again a few years ago, the first thing I wrote was not a short story or a laughable attempt at a novel. It was actually a script. There was a new reality show coming out called “Situation: Comedy” where they wanted people to submit original Sitcom scripts, and the top entrants would be featured on a reality competition where they would try and win the top prize of a pilot on some network or another. I had this great idea for a show called “NERDS”, featuring four friends just out of college who lived together in an apartment and were, well, nerds. I think the pilot featured an awkward attempt at a party, the slightly normal one pining for some attractive girl he could never have, and one guy getting beat up by a cop because he accidentally busted his lip at a racquetball game earlier and inadvertently verbally assaulted the officer because of his resulting speech impediment. It was, quite frankly, one of the worst things ever written.

Needless to say, I did not win the show. I did not make it to the first round even, nor was my script ever considered in any serious way that I know of. Also, I don’t even think the show itself ever made it to air, or if it did it tanked in the ratings and was not renewed. All this to say, it was bad enough to be rejected outright by a show that was in itself pretty awful.

(It is interesting, however, that a show called “The Big Bang Theory” did come out on CBS just a few years later featuring, you guessed it, four nerds and their crazy adventures while the one slightly normal guy pines for the affections of his attractive next door neighbor. Coincidence? Honestly, yes, it probably is, because nothing I wrote in my script was even half as funny as TBBT is, so I’m glad that show made it and not mine.)

Why do I drag up this piece of history? Because after years of sticking solely to prose, it seems I’m being drawn back into writing screenplays. A good friend of mine, who is basically an amazing photographer whose name everyone will know one day, asked if I would collaborate with him on a little short film he’s going to be shooting over Christmas. I was pretty honored that he would ask me, because he’s an actual professional and I’m… nothing really. Regardless, I said yes of course, and now I’m working on developing the script for this short film.

Let me tell you, it’s tough. I’ve become so accustomed to constantly allowing the reader full access to all the innermost thoughts and feelings of my characters and the freedom to dive in as deep as I can to anyone’s head. The difference between this and film is enough to make my head spin. Suddenly, the old mantra of “show, don’t tell” is more than a mantra. It’s an absolute law, like gravity or electromagnetism. It definitely gives me a whole new respect for people that do this for a living.

In any case, not much more to report on that front except that I’m pretty excited to finally be collaborating with this guy, who’s not only a genius photographer but also happens to be one of my best friends since childhood. I’m mostly hoping I don’t just totally screw the whole project up. We’ll see how it goes I guess.

Giveaway – Chorus of Dust

OH HEY THERE

It’s been a while. I once again find myself immediately kicking off a blog post for an apology for being away so long, which is not a good habit to get into. I would offer an excuse, probably having to do with how my day job has once again consumed all free time I have available, but would you care? Probably not, so let’s just say I’ve been a bad host and leave it at that.

As recompense, I offer you the delayed fulfillment of a promise I made waaaaay back in July, which is that I intend to give away a hardcover copy of my novella, Chorus of Dust. Here’s how you can get it.

Follow me on either Goodreads or Twitter (or both if you feel like it), and send me a comment/tweet recommending your favorite horror novel, novella, or short story.

Yes, I’m basically using you to give me more suggestions for new stuff to read, so hopefully you’re cool with that. One week from today, I will randomly pick from the entries, assuming there’s more than one, and that person will receive the following:

  • Limited, signed Hardcover edition of Chorus of Dust
  • Signed paperback copy of Shock Totem #4, featuring my story-in-verse, Lobo
  • A personal hand-written note from yours-truly, the contents of which may or may not be highly offensive.

That’s it! Easy enough, right? So get on that web-o-sphere and get me some recommendations. In the meantime, enjoy this picture of my great-grandparents and their ghost-child that haunted them for years.

You see him, he’s right there! Freaky huh? Okay, thanks everyone, see you in a week.

Moto Madness

So I bought a motorcycle. I guess I just figured, the mid-life crisis is going to come sooner or later, so why wait?

Honestly, this is something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time.  I remember way back in, oh, 2001 or so going to a local Yamaha dealership and looking at the V Star bikes.  No, not looking, more like pining for them. But I was flat broke and didn’t have the time or money to pursue getting my motorcycle endorsement, so I put it off.

Fast forward several years, and gas prices are still crazy. One day, Jennifer looks at me and says, “Why don’t you just get a motorcycle? Don’t they get good gas mileage?” I blew her off at the time, but the thought kept nagging at me. What if I did get one? Eventually I had to ask if she was serious about because I really didn’t think she was, but as it turns out she truly thought it might be a good idea.

So I went for it. I took the Motorcycle Safety Foundation training course, then took the test at the Texas DPS to get my Class M Endorsement. And now, here I am, with a used-but-new-to-me bike sitting in my garage. Would you like to see it? She is pretty.

The 2007 Honda Shadow 600 VLX. It’s okay to be jealous. I won’t hold it against you.

Look at that awesome chrome, the powerful but newbie-friendly 583cc V-Twin engine, and that low, low seat. Perfect for a Mr. Shorty Legs like me.

Shh, don’t say anything. You don’t have to.

Seriously though, I’m looking forward to continue getting to know this bike. I rode it home from the dealership today and practiced a bit with it earlier this evening, but there are still some kinks I need to work out. For one, I still don’t have a good feel for the clutch on this thing. It never seems to engage where I think it will, and this has resulted in me embarrassingly stalling out a couple of times at stops. I also haven’t opened her wide up yet to see what she’s capable of. About the fastest I’ve gotten so far is 60, so I’d like to see what she can do.

Look at that, I’m already calling it a she.

The plan is to eventually ride back and forth to work everyday. Once I’m comfortable with this bike, it’s going to be great fun getting to make this part of my daily commute. And at 60 miles per gallon, it will basically pay for itself. It just doesn’t get much better than that.

Here Comes the Giveaway

I know, another extended absence. I have a good excuse this time though, I really do. Just see the next post down for more details if you don’t believe me.

So, the Hardcover of Chorus of Dust is finally out! Great news, right? Only, if you didn’t order quite a while back or if you aren’t a member of the Darkfuse Book Club, there’s a good chance you’ll never get a chance to purchase a copy, because they’re all completely sold out. Bummer huh? Of course, there’s always the eBook if you still want to check it out.  And you should, because it’s a great book if I do say so myself.

But wait! I bring good tidings! I am going to have a giveaway soon, and it will include a copy of the very limited, signed hardcover edition of Chorus of Dust, along with some other goodies.

So, make sure and come back so you can get in on this. If you haven’t already gotten one, this might be your only chance, so you won’t want to miss it!

The Reviews Are In…

Well, a few of them anyway. You can’t expect a book like Chorus of Dust to be reviewed by the NYT or anything. However, a couple of excellent websites have posted reviews of my first novella, and both are very positive!

First, Peter D. Schwotzer of Literary Mayhem had some great things to say:

The story starts out in the prison Adem is in and from there Adem proceeds to tell Ray his side of the story. Adem tells Ray the tale of his family farm’s curse, and the death  and destruction it has brought his family. Throughout the story it would shift between Adem telling his tale and Ray and Adem sitting in the prison. I though that Justin handled this particularly well and I never felt he lost control of the story with the shifting back and forth. I especially enjoyed how Justin ended the story, just a really great ending.

I very much look forward to Justin’s second book and highly recommend you give “Chorus Of Dust” a try, you won’t be disappointed.

You can check out Peter’s full review right here.

Second, Jassen Bailey of The Crow’s Caw chimed in with his own opinion:

Whenever a new author is published through Delirium Books, I am interested in seeing what is in store for me as a reader. Let me begin by telling you Justin Paul Walter’s CHORUS OF DUST is one heck of a debut. I waited a bit before writing this review to see how I felt about the story after a week or so. I’m glad I did because I think I appreciate it more after letting it settle…

…CHORUS OF DUST on the surface is a story about an evil curse placed on the family’s cotton farm but it’s rooted in the unanswered, faith, and hope. I’m not a huge fan of evil curse stories, but this is a very good story with much to offer.

For the full review, take a look here.

Note, I didn’t know either of these fellows prior to publishing this book, so for them to take the time to read a debut novella by a completely unknown author means a lot to me. Even if their impressions had been totally negative (which thankfully they weren’t), I’m still grateful for their readership and willingness to tell others what they thought about it. You guys are awesome!

Of course, it goes without saying that this applies to everyone who’s bought and read Chorus of Dust so far as well, whether they liked it or not. I don’t do this for the money or the fame or anything like that. I write in the same way people play golf on the weekends, or tinker with cars in their garage. It relaxes me and helps me unwind, and it’s something I’m passionate about despite the fact that I’ll probably never make a real living at it. All I want is to create something that people will enjoy reading, and even if only a handful of you took some measure of entertainment from my book, then that makes it all worth it.

Thank you!

Literal Daze #7

Literal Daze is back in lucky 7th edition form. Let’s dive right in!

 

Book

Ghost Story (Peter Straub)

This is my first Peter Straub book. As I go back and try to catch up on all these books I missed out on growing up, I find myself saying that a lot. “This is my first XXXXX XXXXX book.” It’s too bad, but it’s also good in a way, because now I have all of these great books and authors to look forward to. After reading Ghost Story, I know Peter Straub will be one of my new favorites.

Ghost Story is about a group of elderly gentlemen in a small town in upstate NY who call themselves “The Chowder Society”. They dress up in fancy suits and smoke cigars and drink scotch and generally just have a good old-fashioned time. That is, until one of them mysteriously turns up dead at a party. After that, they continue their meetings, but the tone of the gatherings take on a darker shade as each one takes a turn telling a story that answers the question, “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?”

Eventually, strange things begin happening in the small town, and the group has to bring in outside help from a young relative of the man who died. As they unravel the mystery, they also have to deal with the consequences of an event that happened to them earlier in their life, and it’s repercussions could end up tearing the town apart.

At first, I had a hard time getting into this. The opening is bizarre, and even after we get into the meat of the story it’s pretty slow going. However, the slow, dreadful build eventually works in its favor, and by the midpoint in the book I found that I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. I loved the tone of the whole book. Everything felt off somehow, like every single character in the book was just ever so slightly imbalanced and out of touch with reality. It made for a tense ride, and ending had a great pay-off for sticking around.

I’ll certainly be reading more by Mr. Straub. I see he has a few books with Stephen King. Now THAT might be worth checking out.

 

Audiobook

World Without End (Ken Follett)

After burning through Pillars of the Earth on audiobook, I knew I had to pick up its sequel. I didn’t even care what it was about, just that I needed it. It was even longer than the first, but it was definitely worth it.

World Without End takes place in the mid-fourteenth century, about 200 years after the events in Pillars, in the same fictional city of Kingsbridge. Though none of the same characters are still around from the first book (as you can imagine), several of them are descendants of the originals, like Jack and Tom Builder. This is a good thing though, as it gives us a clean slate to work with, a whole new crew that interact with each other and create this intricate tapestry of a story. Like it’s predecessor, WWE tells its story from several different points of view and follows significant portions of the character’s lives. Though there are some shadows of the first book that seem to pop up, they are unique and wholly different than those in Pillars, and watching how they all interact with each other (for good or bad) is a lot of fun.

If there’s one thing I can fault the story for, it’s that it seems to lack the overall structure of the first book. Pillars, though its story was all over the place, always had the backdrop of building the cathedral to tie everything together. It begins with the need for a new one, and ends with it being built, and everything that happens in between contributes to that overall arch. World Without End doesn’t seem to have that same driving goal to tie everything together, and so at times the story feels a bit aimless, like we’re just following these people around (fascinating as they might be) until they die or their story isn’t interesting any more. The ending especially felt jarring, in that there’s little in the way of climax or catharsis. There’s simply no more story to tell and it ends.

Overall though, that’s actually a minor gripe, and it didn’t take away from how wonderful this book is. Follett once again shows that he’s a master storyteller, and I will no doubt continue reading his work for as long as I can. As for the audiobook, there’s not much to say other than that John Lee knocks it out of the park once again. Such a great narrator. If I had the money I would hire him to just follow me around and narrate my life.

 

Next Time

In the next edition, expect to see fellow Darkfuse author Lee Thompson’s novella Iron Butterflies Rust, as well as the audiobook of Day by Day Armageddon.  Horror edition number two, perhaps? Come back and find out!