A Brief Bite of I Can Taste the Blood

An excerpt from my novella in the collection I Can Taste the Blood, coming from Grey Matter Press August 23rd, 2016.

Available for pre-order here.

Five Unique Authors.

Five Disturbing Visions.

One nightmare.

It Flows August 23, 2016.

 

P.S.  Again, sorry in advance for the scruffy look.


A Short taste of my story from Gutted…

Forgive the general scruffiness.  I’m a little unkempt these days.


ICanTastetheBlood.com. It’s Flowing Now…

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I Can Taste the Blood, the book, comes out August 23rd, 2016.  That’s a Tuesday, if you’re interested.  And we’ve got a lot of things planned to support this.  Some interviews.  Some podcasts.  Perhaps a party of some sort.  Perhaps in St. Louis.  Perhaps at Blackthorn Pizza, whose restroom contained the scrawled line of graffiti that started all this.

Two of the five authors making up this hellish quintet will be reading from their works at a special event being held August 21, 2016, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th St. , in New York City.  Go there that night to see the bombastic J. Daniel Stone and the nearly hermetic Erik T. Johnson perform live readings.  Jeez, I wish I could be there.

Until then, you need to stay on top of what’s going on the the I Can Taste the Blood world, and I have just the way.

ICanTastetheBlood.com

Go there for news, events, rambling, disquieting postings from the authors themselves.  All sorts of things.  Right now there’s an excerpt from my offering to the collection, as well as a few postings from Joe Schwartz, J. Daniel Stone, Erik T. Johnson and Josh Malerman.

Five unique voices.

Five disturbing visions.

One Nightmare.

I Can Taste the Blood

It Flows Aug. 23, 2016.


The Desolated Orchard

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So, my freestanding novella, “The Desolated Orchard,” is out now from Cutting Block Books.  Has a great, evocative cover, at least I think so.  Reminds of those ’50s and ’60s paperback books.

But what’s it about?  You might ask.  Well, let me spend a few minutes explaining what it is, because it’s a bit different.

What if the old gods (and I don’t mean that in the Lovecraftian sense) never die?  What if they just fade away when people stop worshipping them?  Well, what happens to them then?  How do they go on without the faith and love and prayers that millions gave them?

“The Desolated Orchard” concerns a group of gods of the Greek variety who have settled in America, in Kansas to be precise, during the Dust Bowl era.  They’ve taken to farming, these gods, but there are still some of them who long for the old days.  Who long for the love that mankind once gave them.  Fold in a young itinerant worker, floating across the land seeking employment.  Who is also seeking some emotional connection after his family was torn apart by death and poverty.

Really, in the end, “The Desolated Orchard” is a quintessential King of Pain story, because at it’s heart, it really seeks to understand the answer to one question.

What would you give up for love?

The answer, sometimes, is chilling.

The answer, sometimes, is everything.

Available now at Amazon, “The Desolated Orchard” is just 99 cents.  And it already has a few great reviews:

Book reviewer Adrian Shotbolt says:  “What makes a Taff story stand out from the thousands of other horror stories out there is the writing. Regardless of the book’s length, his characters are rich, living, breathing people, his dialogue is crisp, natural and free flowing, and the stories are always undeniably original and emotional. I always feel that I’m not simply reading his stories but living them. This is what separates the great writers from the good ones.

“‘ The Desolated Orchard’ is another wonderful story that will linger long after the final page has been turned. A story within a story, told by a master writer who shows no signs of dropping the ball. Brilliant stuff (again).

Book reviewer David Spell says:  “I was quickly lost in the story within a story while reading “The Desolated Orchard.” The tale of Hough and Percy’s love affair, the life and times of living in the early 20th century and moving from farm to farm looking for work. There is a precise way the love story is told and neatly unfolded. John F.D. Taff takes you through all the emotions in smooth succession. I felt like I was listening to a story instead of reading it. I was engrossed in the storytelling and really enjoyed the characters.”

Fellow author and friend (yeah, but you can still believe him!) J. Daniel Stone says, “‘The Desolated Orchard’ is an extremely fast-paced horror/thriller. I read it in one sitting and would gladly read it again. The story’s theme is the country side, farms to be exact. We come to read about life on farms, the impact of immigrants and the native-born United States folk. As a city boy through and through, I know nothing about farms so this was great information for me. The main narrator is a grand storyteller and tells the tale of a man who falls in love with the farmer’s daughter. You know that story, right? You’ve read that before, right? No, you haven’t.”

And fellow author and friend (yeah, I got a few of them) Mark Matthews, says, “There is so much to love about this short, incredibly engaging read. Characters with much more depth than your usual bag of bones for a work so short. Dialogue that sounds so true. A setting brought to life. Jokes about ‘the farmers daughter’ was part of my adolescent mythology growing up, and I read this with a silent smirk and then in silent awe as Taff did, indeed, make the Farmers Daughter mythology something much more grande. From the tiny details of an odd relationship to larger explanations of the universe, this book had me thinking, ‘damn, that was so cool how he did that.’ Taff doesn’t just write a great story, he writes a great sentence, and this story is a perfect example.”

So, what are you waiting for?  Jeez, it’s less than a buck.


Update! Lots of Stories Out, More to Come!

So, I’ve been up to my proverbial neck in trying to urge my work in progress–my novel, “The Fearing”–toward my self-imposed deadline of Labor Day, 2016.  It’s been a slow slog, this thing being epic and all and my sudden conversion to being a catch-up, binge-watching fan of Game of Thrones.

But I’ve got a lot of stuff that’s come out lately or is coming very soon.  Here’s a low down of them and where/when you can get them.

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Not Your Average Monster, Vol. 2

Out right now, this very minute!  My story, “Apt Pupae,” is a play on the title of S. King’s work, and has a ’50s sci-fi vibe that I kinda like.  Support Pete Kahle’s Bloodshot Books!

 

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The Desolated Orchard

This one is out right now from Cutting Block.  It’s a free-standing novella and it’s only 99 cents!  It’s a patented King of Pain™ story about love, loss, death and all that good stuff.  This one could use some reviews about right now.

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Gutted:  Beautiful Horror Stories

Lot’s of big names in here:  Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, Paul Tremblay, Josh Malerman.  My story, “Cards for His Spokes, Coins for His Fare,” has been noted in many of the early reviews for this book. The cover is stunning, and each story has an illustration from Luke Spooner.  The one above is for my story, and it perfectly captures the heart of my tale about a boy and his bike and growing up and death.

 

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The Beauty of Death

Another one with a lot of big names in there, including PETER FUCKING STRAUB.  Jaysus.  My story, “The Bitches of Madison County” is also about a disgraced nature photographer who just can’t quite escape his own nature.  It’s up for pre-order now.

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I Can Taste the Blood

Oh, I can’t wait for this to come out.  I Can Taste the Blood has been a pet project of mine for a while now.  I gathered together some disparate voices–J. Daniel Stone, Erik T. Johnson, Joe Schwartz and Josh Malerman.  And we each wrote a novella with no other caveat, no other tie other than they all shared the same title.  And oh how different five different authors can take an idea.

Five Unique Voices.

Five Disturbing Visions.

One Nightmare.

I Can Taste the Blood.

It Flows August 2016.


Gutted Up for Pre-Order

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One of the many projects I’m appearing in over the next few months, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, is up for pre-0rder now at Amazon.

This project, headed up by editors Doug Murano and D. Alexander Ward, features a stunning line-up of authors, including me.  My offering, “Cards for His Spokes, Coins for His Fare,” is a definite “King of Pain” offering, in that it’s already demonstrated its propensity to make readers weep.

Here’s the line-up:

Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Ramsey Campbell, Paul Tremblay, Lisa Mannetti, Damien Angelica Walters, Josh Malerman, Christopher Coake, Mercedes M. Yardley, Brian Kirk, Stephanie M. Wytovich, Amanda Gowin, Richard Thomas, Maria Alexander, Kevin Lucia…and me!

It comes out at the end of the month, but pre-order yours now here.

 

 


Remember Mussolini?

If you’re one of the six people who read this blog, you know that most of the things I post here are stream-of-conscious, marketing-driven stuff designed to move some books.  Maybe a movie review, when the mood strikes me.  Pug stuff.  But hardly anything offensive or controversial.  And nothing political.  Because, and I have no illusions here, who gives a shit what I think about topics or politics or candidates or what not?  Especially today, especially in the Divided States of America, everyone believes what they want to believe and fuck you.  You’re wrong and I’m right and you can just fuck off and die.

So, there’s that.

But I feel compelled to write something about the presidential race we find ourselves enmired in today.  Let me point out that this is really just to clarify my own thoughts on the subject, not really to win anyone over.  But it’s my blog, so my opinions.  And if you don’t want to hear them, that’s fine and dandy.  This, then, is as good a place as any to stop reading and internet surf elsewhere.

There, now we’re alone…quite possibly, literally.

I don’t want to offend the one or two of you left, but let me be clear about something.

Donald J. Trump is a dangerous demagogue, a personification of a new and curious political paradigm in the United States, that of a malignant strain of authoritarianism that most people wouldn’t have put much credence in 50 years ago.

If you’re thinking of voting for Donald J. Trump, if you’re even thinking to yourself, “Well, he wouldn’t be that bad…,” I really have nothing but a sort of weary contempt for you.

Why?

Some people compare Trump to Hitler, but this is a stupid, knee-jerk comparison that just causes his supporters to roll their eyes and move on.  And rightly so.  Trump isn’t Hitler or even like Hitler.  Trump hasn’t strong-armed control of a country, maneuvered it into a globe-spanning war, invaded  multiple countries, subjugated their peoples, committed genocide on a truly apocalyptic scale, and nearly resulted in a world the likes of which it is hard to even imagine.  He hasn’t done anything approaching this.

Yet.

No, Donald J. Trump is not like Hitler.

Donald J. Trump is like Mussolini.

Remember him? If you know me, you know that I am a student of history.  I read more history these days than anything else, mostly because I don’t like someone else’s horror stories rattling around in my head when I sit down to write my own horror.  And the one thing history teaches us–and this is trite, I know, but also a truism–is that cultures that don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it.

And if America is anything these days, it is history ignorant.  Or pretty much just ignorant-ignorant.  There is a growing strain of anti-intellectualism flowering in our country that is disturbing to watch, but hardly surprising I guess.  There is a large swath of our fellow citizens that is committed to the idea that God has laid the course for this country, and everything that anyone needs to know is written down in that compendium of Bronze Age fantasy stories known as The Bible. Any departure from God’s Word, as noted in The Bible, cannot be tolerated.  The problem, of course, is whose God and whose Bible and whose interpretation?

But I digress…

Anyway, remember Mussolini?  Pudgy guy, mugged a lot, had a lot of well-attended rallies back in the 1930s?  Whipped people into a frenzy through a mix of nationalistic fervor and race baiting–not Mexicans, back then, for Mussolini it was Slavs and blacks.  He built a cult of personality that allowed him to move quickly through the ranks of actual elected officialdom to a full-fledged tyranny.  Sound kinda familiar?  Yes, he was a fascist, and I’m not suggesting anything of the sort for Donald J. Trump (except, very probably, in his own wicked little dreams), but that’s not my point.

There is a strange undercurrent in much of American culture that we are somehow above history; that the stupid, ridiculous, even horrible things that have happened in the past, in other countries, can’t happen here.  To which I can only say…Are you kidding?  We’re not somehow exempt from the wild vicissitudes of history.  We’re not some different strain of humanity that has been inoculated against ignorance and blind obedience.  We’ve managed to avoid some of these things–some–through being careful, through keeping our eye on the ball of the principles this country was founded on.  And that, in a nutshell, is freedom and equality for all.  Not for a few.  Not for some.  Not only those we like or agree with.  All.  Period.  End of sentence and end of discussion.

I’ve said before that I do believe the two most profound documents ever written are the Bible and the Constitution of the United States of America.  The first one I don’t believe in, but as a document–the New Testament, anyway–it set nascent Christianity apart from much of the other Bronze Age religions by its sheer egalitarianism.  Too bad most Christians these days don’t bother to follow its precepts or even note them.  They seem more interested in the smiting and brimstone of the far older and daffier Old Testament.

But the second one, the Constitution, I do believe in, and when people these days use either of these documents to discriminate against any group, to deny them freedom or equality or liberty, then they have lost me as an adherent or even a sympathetic ear to their beliefs.  You’re going to use a document based on love and another document based on freedom to deny love and/or freedom to people you hate for one reason or another?  Nope.  Count me out.

There are, however, a lot of Americans who believe, wholeheartedly, that it’s great to use these documents for the purposes of hate.  And while I can usually ignore them, leave them to their own beliefs because, frankly, these people, these beliefs are dying out with every new generation, I find it hard to ignore when these people finally find a person to embody, to personify these beliefs and ram them through to the uppermost reaches of our discourse.

I’m reading a great book titled Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics by Marc J. Hetherington, and it posits the growth of a strain of authoritarianism in our country.  It’s a fascinating, if chilling book.

What does American authoritarianism mean, though?

It means that there’s a growing number of people who just want someone to tell them what to do.  They want someone who can protect them from the right-wing-imagined boogeymen of strange, brown immigrants stealing their jobs or creeping into our country to blow shit up.  They want someone who will tell them how special they are, how great they are, while undermining the very things that might make us great or special.  They want someone who “tells it like it is,” who isn’t a politician, who speaks to the people.

They want a strongman.

They want a Mussolini.

And they want their elected officials to fall in line with this kind of man; people like Paul Ryan and Newt Gingrich and other Republican bigwigs, who, not unexpectedly, have quietly and with a distinct lack of spine called back their earlier criticisms to toady up to this dangerously ignorant man, all in the name of “party unity.”

Wow, doesn’t that term have a distinct, beer-hall-putsch, 193os air to it?

They forget, though, that these types of authoritarians seldom are satisfied by the power they’re granted.  Generally, they want more and more and more.  And they’re quite willing to take it if it’s not freely given.

If you’re voting for or supporting Trump, I cannot respect your opinion, because I can look down the road a piece and see what it will inevitably lead to.  And if you don’t think that what I’m saying is possible, if you don’t think that Donald J. Trump is that kind of man, if you don’t think that something like that can happen in America, all I can say is that you’d be better off reading a little history.

I’m not a huge fan of Hillary Clinton.  I’m just not.  I’d much rather see Bernie Sanders be the Democratic nominee, mostly because I like what he’s got to say.  But also because he beats Trump soundly in every major poll.  But it looks like the electorate has spoken, and Hillary will be the nominee.

Fine.  I’m not saying that I’d vote for anyone except Donald J. Trump–I’d probably not vote for, say, Hitler or Mussolini instead of Trump.  Certainly not Satan instead of Trump.  But I will vote for Hillary instead of Trump.  I won’t cast my vote with any degree of enthusiasm, but I will also not sit on my ass and not vote and ensure that this dangerous, authoritarian demagogue gets into office.

Yes, I’d rather vote for Sanders as I did in the primary, but, as Bill Maher succinctly said, “If you can’t have the chicken, get the fish.”

So, if the fish keeps Trump out of office, sign me up for the fish.

 

 


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