Monthly Archives: June 2014

Sold a Story to Grey Matter’s Newest Anthology Death’s Realm!

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The fine folks over at Grey Matter Press told me today that one of my stories has been accepted into its latest anthology, Death’s Realm.  This new ghostly/afterlife-themed antho is scheduled for publication in late August. (Yeah, pay no attention to that graphic above saying that they’re now accepting submissions.  They aren’t.  They’re closed.  Sorry.)

The story they accepted should solidify my reputation as Grey Matter Press’ King of Pain.  It’s a piece called “Some Other Day,” and it involves death and grief and a ghost and…well, to say any more would spoil it.  So, you’ll have to take a look when it’s out.

Great to be in another antho with Tony and Sharon and everyone at Grey Matter.  I already know my story will join stories by Brian Fatah Steele, John Foster and my good friend Jane Brooks!  Yay, Jane!  Complete Table of Contents and other information coming soon!

And after Death’s Realm is published, you know what’s next, don’t you?

The End in All Beginnings.


Spectacular Blurb from Aaron French for The End in All Beginnings…

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Hopefully, these will start coming in faster and furiouser as we near the publication date of The End in All Beginnings.

Aaron French, author and editor-in-chief of Dark Discoveries, was kind enough to take a look at the special advance limited edition.  He had this to say:

The End in all Beginnings gathers five emotion-packed novellas from the insightful pen of John F.D. Taff, with each tale indescribably complementing its counterparts, as the suits in a deck of cards complement each other. Indeed, the five novellas are graced with five mysterious Tarot trumps—The Tower, The Devil, The Lovers, The High Priestess, and The Fool—with the Death card standing above the entire collection like a looming black cloud. There is a circular, almost dreamlike quality to much of the material, owing to Taff’s elegant, often poetic descriptions. They mark out undiscovered country from the religious nostalgia of childhood, to psychological, demented—even monstrous—love gone awry, all the way to the realm of the dead. Well edited, with considerable notes from the author, this collection belongs on the shelf of any true horror connoisseur.”
—Aaron J. French, Editor-in-Chief of Dark Discoveries and author of Aberrations of Reality

Wow!  Super floored over this very complimentary review.

Sorry, but you have to wait another two months to read this!


A Fantastic 5-Star Review for The End in All Beginnings!

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It’s not even out yet, (OK, well the special advance preview edition is), but my new collection of novellas, The End in All Beginnings, is already generating great word of mouth.  This amazing review was posted today by Rich Duncan over at The Horror Bookshelf.  Here’s a bit of it:

“This is truly one of the best collection of novellas I have read in a while and will definitely be in the running for one of my favorite reads of the year. I feel like this collection will not only appeal to horror fans, but could interest readers of just about any genre. So, whether you are looking for introduction to the world of horror or are already a seasoned horror fanatic, you will definitely want to give The End In All Beginnings a read!”

It’s a very, very good review, so I suggest you head over to Rich’s site and read the entire thing.  I think all the signed advance copies are just about gone, though you could try heading over to Grey Matter to check.  The general release of the book is scheduled for September…with a few more surprises up our sleeves between now and then.

Heh…


Here’s Where I Help a Brutha Out. And that Brutha is Mark Matthews!

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So one of the great friends I’ve made through my relationship with Books of the Dead Press has released a new novella that I think merits your attention.  And by “you,” I mean the six or so of you who actually read this blog.

Mark’s a great guy and a very good writer.  If you haven’t snagged On the Lips of Children yet, go here and do so now.  It’s a fantastic, discomfiting read.

And, wow, so is Milk-Blood.  Here’s some background for ya:

“One of the most anticipated reads of the summer.” -The Horror Bookshelf
MILK-BLOOD, by Mark Matthews, is now available on amazon. It is a tale of urban horror set in Detroit that may be unlike anything you’ll read all year. MILK-BLOOD is the follow up to On the Lips of Children, the author’s debut piece of horror. The cover design is from Kealan Patrick Burke of Elderlemon Design, and the story was edited by Richard Thomas, Editor in Chief at Dark House Press.
What’s it about?
Lilly is ten years old, born with a heart defect, and already addicted to heroin. Her mother is gone from her life, and there are rumors that she was killed by her father and buried near the abandoned house across the street. The house intrigues her, she can’t stay away, and the monstrous homeless man who lives there has been trying to get Lilly to come inside.

For her mother is there, buried in the back, and this homeless man is Lilly’s true father, and both want their daughter back.

The term upon which the title is based, “Milk-Blood” was made famous in the Neil Young Song “The Needle and the Damage Done.” A companion piece featuring a character from Milk-Blood, The Damage Done, is available for free on amazon and has been receiving tremendous reviews.
Praise for MILK-BLOOD

“An incredibly powerful story and one of the most original horror novels I have read in years. Guaranteed to have you on the edge of your seat!”—The Horror Bookshelf

“I had to keep on reading no matter what, not able to break its spell.” -Goodreads Librarian

“The originality and tension of the urban horror story, Milk-Blood is evident on every page. Matthews takes you to some very dark places, twists and turns, with the rabbit hole going deeper and deeper, until there is no way out. Not for the faint of heart, this story of love, loss, family and acceptance is a rollercoaster ride from start to finish.” — Richard Thomas, author of Staring Into the Abyss

“What a dark, twisted and bizarre book this was. One of the most striking urban horror stories I have read in a long time.” —Author Adam Light

$2.99 for kindle

$6.99 in Paperback

 

I’ve already reviewed it on Amazon, but here’s what I said:

“Mark Matthews’ Milk-Blood  is a discomfiting story of real inner city horrors, told by characters so real they pop off the page.  But when Matthews adds the supernatural to the mix, the story really leaps out and grabs you by the throat. This is a helluva story!  Very much recommended!”

Go get it now!


Grey Matter’s Flash Fiction Contest. Every. Frikkin. Month.

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Those smart, smart people at Grey Matter Press have hit on another cool idea.  How about a flash fiction contest?  How about one with some prizes, where you get to vote on which entries are the best? How about a different contest every month?

Well, that’s it. Go here to learn more about it and enter.

Oh, and the prize this month?  A signed copy of the special, limited edition of my novella collection, The End in All Beginnings. Months before it’s scheduled to come out.

Whattaya waiting for?


What to Write to Honor My Sylvia? Well, How About This?

Sylvia Says Huh?

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I’m struggling here.  I am three weeks out since the death of my dear Sylvia, the first dog I myself acquired.  Bought sounds so…uncouth, doesn’t it?  But I did buy her, from some very nice people who owned a farm down in southwest Missouri and bred dogs.  That was 11 years ago, when my life was vastly different than it is today.

It’s said that people come into our lives for specific purposes. Whatever power operates the universe–God, Buddha, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, pick your poison–presents us with opportunities at random points in our lives…or really, not so random.  At moments where we can make life-changing decisions.  These opportunities might be material or spiritual or fiscal or physical.  I think it’s safe to say that among these opportunities are those involving bringing not just people into your life…but souls.  And if you don’t think dogs have souls, we can end our little chat right here.

You see, the struggle for me has been trying to figure out how to honor Sylvia’s life.  Because, in the last decade, there have been two souls who have entered my life and made profound differences.  One is Deb, and since she’s still here, we won’t eulogize her just yet.

The other, without a doubt, was Sylvia.

As a kid, we were raised with all kinds of animals.  We had dogs, we had cats, we had hamsters and gerbils and fish and birds.  We sometimes brought in frogs or lizards, baby rabbits from the yard, birds who couldn’t fly.  My parents once even kidnapped a chipmunk from Colorado and transported it across state lines (in what I’m sure was a violation of some law) to our home here in Missouri.  We were animal people.

But I was never really a dog person.  We had collies, and contrary to what you might have seen on TV, both of them were as dumb as rocks.  They were less likely to tell you that Timmy had fallen into a well than to fall in one themselves.  They were good dogs, and we grieved their passing.  But I think most of our hearts were given to our cats.

We had cats of our own when I got married, two great ones.  One from a shelter and one taken in from running around at our apartment complex.  Cool, friendly cats who loved to curl up with you, loved to be petted, came when called.  Great cats.

Dogs were smelly and skittish and messy and kind of…well..stupid.  At least that’s what I thought.

As I grew older, though, and life took its inevitable downs, I suddenly, inexplicably wanted a dog.  I can’t tell you where the idea arose, I can only tell you that it was a life-changer.  I really wanted a bulldog, but decided to settle for a pug as sort of a cut-rate second choice.  I did the research, found the breeder and plunked my money down on a pug.

We went to get her around Father’s Day 11 years ago.  It was a long drive, with little kids, and we met the breeder in a church parking lot.  Sylvia was all of 8 weeks old, and she was the runt of the litter.  I had my ex-wife drive home so I could hold her on my lap during the trip.  It was a position she would always have throughout her life whenever she got into the car.  Excuse me for a moment, because among many things I miss about her, I deeply miss that, having her sit on my left thigh, my hand entwined in her harness.  Her wide open, smiling mouth, her lolling tongue.  She loved car rides.  Loved them.

Anyway, I learned quickly that dogs aren’t stupid, at least not in the way I thought.  Dogs have the incredible ability to live life as it’s presented to them.  They take the ups gratefully and the downs in stride.  I learned that from Sylvia.

There’s that old adage that dogs live in the moment.  It’s true.  They don’t linger or dwell on bad experiences.  React, then it’s off to the next one, hopefully a better one.

Dogs, as Sylvia was to teach me, are fucking awesome.  They’re loyal and loving and, in Sylvia’s case, totally (and I mean totally) empathetic.  Sylvia knew when I was down and cheered me.  She knew when I needed a kiss (or to have my entire scalp licked).  She was always there for me at times when I thought there was no other.

She saved me.  Simply put.  And made me a better, more centered person.  Because of her, I have cast aside my old self, filled with worry and stress and anxiety and fear. Because of her, I am less judgmental, less negative, less “the glass is half empty.”  Because of her I have been able to open myself to love and healing and moving on.  Does that sound new-agey or a little too feminine?  Well, then…fuck off.

And I guess, right there, is the gift Sylvia gave me.  That wonderful little soul came into my life at just the right time and offered me a lifesaver to cling to.  No pretense, no demands, no judging.  Just love me and let me love you.  What a profound lesson to learn at my advanced age.  And from a dog.

I’ve been struggling, to bring this full circle, with what I might be able to do, to write to honor the profound impact Sylvia had on me me, continues to have on me.  I had another dog die about five years ago, a pug named Hector.  Hector’s death and my grief afterward unlocked a secret chamber inside me that poured forth a torrent of writing at a time when I’d pretty much stopped.  I wrote what was to me a powerful story, entitled “Here,” which is available in my collection Little Deaths.  It eased me through the sadness of having lost Hector and eased me back into the writing I hadn’t realized that I’d sorely missed.

“Here,” though, is  a ghost story, filled with loss and poignancy, but it’s a ghost story.  I don’t want to write a ghost story about Sylvia…that’s not what her life meant to me.  So I’m stymied about how I can write something that stays within my milieu (horror/dark fiction) and yet still speaks to the profound, ongoing effect that little dog had on me.

I dunno…this right here might be it, my eulogy for Sylvia.  That she was a soul I opened myself up to and became all the better for knowing and loving.  I can sit here, late this evening with my fiancee and my two other much-loved dogs–Sadie and Tovah, all up in bed and waiting for me to join them–and know that I am honored and humbled that this tiny being found me and allowed me to share her life, allowed me to grow through knowing her, allowed me the profound honor of being with her, holding her as she moved on from this life. I can carry this lesson forward, to my relationships not just with Sadie and Tovah, not even just to the lovely Deb, but to my relationships with family and friends.

Why is it so awkward for us to express our love to people?  I dunno. But not anymore.  I kiss and hug my parents when I see them, both dad and mom.  I tell my good friend Chris that I love him when I go to hang up the phone.  Why not?  Life is so short and regret lasts forever.  No regrets anymore.  The people who are in my life, I think, all know that I love them these days.  You know who you are, and are probably uncomfortable when I say it.  Too fucking bad.  I love all of you. (Jeez, this is beginning to sound as if I’m drunk…I’m not.)

In the end, just as it was at the beginning, Sylvia gave me a gift, and I unwrapped that gift and use it every day now.  I hope that what I gave her in return was equal to what she gave me, though I think it couldn’t be.  But she had a great life.  She was adored, simply adored.

I can’t say anything better about anyone I’ve known.

She was adored and I miss her greatly. But I am so thankful she chose to spend some time with me here.

Books of the Dead is bringing out a new (well, old and substantially rewritten) novel from me soon.  I think it’s going to be called The Exterminator, though I loathe that title.  I dedicated this book to Sylvia.  Is that strange?  I don’t think so.

Sorry for the long, rambling post.  But I think it helped me process what Sylvia meant to me.  Thanks for reading it.


New from Grey Matter: Equilibrium Overturned (No, I’m Not In It.)

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So, Tony, Sharon and the fine, fine folks at Grey Matter Press have a new anthology coming out later this month, June 24 to be precise.  It’s called Equilibrium Overturned, and it features some fine authors, such John Everson, Tim Waggoner, Jay Caselberg and JG Faherty.  Might want to think about getting this one.  Grey Matter’s on a hot streak that shows no sign of slowing.

And, no, I don’t have a story in this antho.  I mean, come on, I can’t be in everything.  But There Are Things Brewing Between Grey Matter and Me.  Yes. Great. Things. And that’s in addition to the imminent arrival of the real edition of The End in All Beginnings.  Ahh, what might these Great Things be, you ask?  All in good time, all in good time.

For now, enjoy Equilibrium Overturned.  Go here to learn more.  More later!


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