Strange Aeons Magazine – new story

Laird Barron has said (and I paraphrase) that you can’t choose what readers see in your work. I think a writer is fortunate to find an audience, and no matter how you might wish to be characterized, people will label what you do as they find it.

The Skillute Cycle (Knock Knock, Delphine Dodd, Astoria, and In the Light) was a challenge to write. Throughout the project I felt slightly out of my element, creating a town with a complex history and mythology, describing a rural setting and portraying characters who never left that setting. My research was extensive and it paid off in the form of another book not connected to the Skillute Cycle.

Muscadines was a story I’d been toying with for a long time, in various forms, but I didn’t have the background material to complete it until I finished writing those other four books. Once I was done with the Skillute Cycle it only took two weeks to write Muscadines.

I’m grateful for every book sold, and every review. Yet after all that time in the heat and claustrophobia of impoverished rural settings I was itching to do something else.

My recent novel, I Wish I Was Like You, might not appeal to a few of the readers who enjoyed the Skillute Cycle. But I hope most of the people who take a chance on it will find it dark and funny, an existential ghost story centering on a highly unlikable yet recognizable protagonist.

If you do like IWIWLY, I think you might also enjoy “Vigilance. Sacrifice.” in the current issue of Strange Aeons Magazine. Set in the near future in a Pacific Northwest city given over to a lucrative tourist trade, “Vigilance. Sacrifice.” is about a woman employed to track down and dispose of certain displaced creatures who feed upon the city’s paying visitors.

As soon as I finished revising the story I had an idea for a sequel. But I’ll take a step back and see if my new story finds an audience. If it does, it’s thanks to Kelly Young and Justin Steele, who edit this wonderful magazine. Here’s a sample of the story. I hope you’ll order a copy of the issue. In addition to my story it features fiction by Philip Fracassi, Robert Levy, and Todd T. Castillo–and a great cover by multimedia artist Meredith Paeper. Happy reading!

“This is what you were born to do?” Calvin asks me, and laughs. “Hiding in the grass at night, among the cat shit and beer piss?”

Note our surroundings, a bank of weeds and wildflowers under a waning moon. I’m here against my better judgment.

“This one’s on you,” I remind him.

We’ve staked out the spot where Calvin and his first partner were ambushed three months ago. We’re chasing shadows on our own time, for no pay. The bureau doesn’t discourage vendettas or underwrite them. If they covered revenge stalking, they might go broke. We’re losing about six people every season.

Calvin’s former partner may be entitled to vengeance, but he isn’t around tonight. The guy lost his spleen and a kidney. Took an early retirement as soon as he got out of the hospital. By comparison, Calvin’s physical sacrifice is nothing. But he’s morose as hell about it. Nursing a grudge by exaggerating the injury.

“Let’s just say I like my job,” I tell him. Settling down on a flat rock. Both relaxed and alert. My right thumb surveying the edge of my holster. “And I’m good at it.”

— excerpt from “Vigilance. Sacrifice.” (Strange Aeons Magazine #21)



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