From the Best-Selling Author of The Rules of Supervillainy:
Jane Doe has settled into her new role as the Shaman of Bright Falls but that doesn’t pay the bills. With her boyfriend off chasing his evil father, Jane has decided to take up a job as security on the set of horror movies being filmed in her hometown. Unfortunately, the crew have been threatened by an ominous force that quickly sets its sights on Jane herself.
Complicating matters is that Jane’s past sins are coming back to haunt her with her vengeful cousins still blaming her for the death of their sister. Her complicated relationships with Alex and Lucien are also about to come to a head. Enjoy the final installment of the Bright Falls Mysteries! It’s deerlightful!
Set in the same universe as Straight Outta Fangton, The Morgan Detective Agency, Red Room Trilogy, and Psycho Killers in Love.
I’m pleased to say that the BRIGHT FALLS MYSTERIES SAGA is now available. A collection of the three novels detailing the adventures of Jane Doe, shifter detective! Jane is one of my favorite characters and I had a huge amount of fun making I WAS A TEENAGE WEREDEER, AN AMERICAN WEREDEER IN MICHIGAN, and A NIGHTMARE ON ELK STREET.
Each book follows Jane Doe as she attempts to unravel a deeper layer of the corruption and secrets of her small town as well as its evils. It’ll be a hard road to figure out the truth but, thankfully, she’s game.
It’s time again for an update about what exactly I’m currently working on and thought you guys would appreciate an update. We’ve got plenty going on and quite a lot of it good. So, here’s what I have been up to!
A Nightmare on Elk Street (Bright Falls Mysteries #3)
The final Jane Doe novel is now available! Jane has been hired by Lucien to serve as security on his latest money laundering scheme: horror movies starring real monsters. Most of which whom have attractive human forms. Unfortunately, someone wants to shut it down and is willing to kill to do it. Oh and its Halloween with the Lord of the Fae wanting to screw with oh deerlightful heroine.
Tales of Yog-Sothoth is the second anthology I’ve written with Crossroad Press that deals with the Cthulhu Mythos. Tales of Yog-Sothoth contains stories by David Hambling (Harry Stubbs), David J. West (Let Sleeping Gods Lie), David Niall Wilson (Call of Distant Shores), and my own work. It’s a great book and fans of Cthulhu Armageddon will be happy to have another John Henry Booth adventure.
Thomas Machin was kind enough to do the narration for the story of Robbie Stone, a young man living in the beginnings of a cyberpunk future. The corporations are coming close to taking over but they haven’t suceeded yet and he works as a student activist inbetween his studies. Unfortunately, assassins from the future believe he’s going to be much worse and have come to nip that in the bud. Saved by a mysterious white haired girl, Robbie now must wager how much his life is against the horrors he’s going to unleash.
Cthulhu Armageddon is a special case of world-building because it’s not completely my world. Instead, it is an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmology created in the 1920s until his death in 1937. H.P. Lovecraft was an early believer in “open source” writing and often cross-pollinated with other others as well as encouraged them to use his concepts as well as ideals. Some of his fellow writers in the so-called Lovecraft Circle included Robert E. Howard (Conan the Barbarian) and Robert Bloch (Psycho).
For those unfamiliar with HPL’s writings, essentially the concept is that the world is sitting on top of a bunch of incredibly powerful aliens that have been sleeping since ancient times. These Great Old Ones are the size of Godzilla and possess vast reality-altering powers. There are also numerous offshoot races of humanity that worship them that are each more horrifying than the last, living among humanity in secret or in the dark forgotten corners of the Earth.
Above both are the Other Gods who are the lords of the Dreamlands where everything is possible and they are, at best, casually indifferent, and, at worst, amused with humanity the same way a child might torment an insect. Magic is real but eventually drives users insane and is tied to the terrible forces above. Eventually, the Great Old Ones will awake “when the stars are right” and destroy humanity.
Lovecraft’s work was very imaginative and influential despite not giving him financial success in his time. In simple terms, it was just too darn weird. Many writers from Brian Lumley, J. Michael Straczynski, and Stephen King have found it to be inspirational. Others have found Lovecraft to be troublesome or even offensive due to the fact, in simple terms, dude did not like minorities.
Some writers like myself, Matt Ruff, Ruthanna Emyrs, and Victor Lavalle have even addressed that as we’ve adapted his works. Nevertheless, his works helped inspire everything from movies to television to music to video games. I was introduced to it by the Call of Cthulhu tabletop roleplaying game.
The ideal for the Cthulhu Armageddon world came from a combination of factors that have competed for attention ever since. The first was the idea as a logical endpoint for Lovecraft’s writings. Eventually, the stars would be right and the world would be destroyed. However, humanity is remarkably good at surviving mass-extinction events and it occured to me there was potential in stories about the remnants of our once proud race struggling to survive in the shadow of literal giants. Sort of Call of Cthulhu meets Fallout: New Vegas if you will.
Even more so, as I wrote out the world, I started to get a sense of a Wild West feel to the place. Perhaps it was the Mad Max and New Vegas influences but hundreds of tiny little communities, lawlessness, tribal communities, and an eternal frontier invoked the idea for me. Thus, Cthulhu Armageddon became the Weirdest Western of them all. Even if it takes place in the Esoteric East.
Themes and Mood
Cthulhu Armageddon is a somewhat existentialist work that follows the fact there is no judgement or morality beyond the principles the protagonists choose to follow themselves. The gods are real but they are amoral and uncaring to the works of man. Life is cheap and arguably pointless since humanity’s civilization has been washed away and extinction is a very real possibility. It is a stark and uncompromising world where the definition of “human” is also changing and what that means. The protagonists must define what provides their life meaning in the very probably few decades that humanity has left and whether it is better to live eternally as a monster or to experience merciful death as a man.
Timeline Pre-Earth History
Human history is similar but different. Long before Earth, the universe was created by Azathoth the Blind Idiot God, who was there alongside Yog-Sothoth, and the Other Gods. Incarnations of physics and the universe’s laws, they transcended human understanding or even alien. Mutation and capriciousness created many races across space that evolved, lived, and died. Consciousness, however, created the Dreamlands that spawned ideas of gods.
These gods, called the Elder Gods or Small Gods, were more akin to the races that existed. They were less powerful but less inscrutable than the Other Gods. One of the Other Gods, Nyarlathotep, developed a fascination with these beings and became both their guardian as well as minder. It assumed countless visages across time and space, inspiring many gods and taking their forms.
Many of these races went extinct without issue but a small number developed science and magic to the point that they transcended normal existence to become immortal godlike beings. Nyarlathotep cultivated these quests no matter the morality and a handful of beings became the Great Old Ones. Some were gestalt hive-minds of their entire race and others were powerful individuals in their own right. Cthulhu was allegedly the first of their beings or, at least, among the first and led many to settle on the primordial Earth.
Earth was unimportant except for the home of several of these beings but attracted a fair number of alien colonists long before the primordial soup cooled. The Elder Things were the first of these races, dwelling on Earth for a billion years as scientist-kings. They created the protoplasmic shoggoths to serve as their slaves and would, in the twilight of their reign, help “uplift” humanity to replace them when the shoggoths rebelled. Eventually, the Elder Things would retreat under the continent of Antarctica’s surface before leaving the Earth altogether.
Another race that came to inhabit the Earth were the Great Race of Yith that lived during the time of the dinosaurs with vast cities as well as psychic powers. Destroyed by a ravenous infestation called the Flying Polyps, because their name is untranslatable, they psychically projected themselves into the future to escape extinction. It was their intent to possess a nonhuman race after the extinction of humanity, who they learned of via time travel, but this proved impossible given the events of the Rising.
Early Human History
The humans altered by the Elder Things escaped their captivity and interbred with mortals, some of them learning the secrets of Elder Thing technology. Knowledge is corrupting and a source of madness, though, as early humanity would soon learn. Early humans sought out the resting places of the Great Old Ones and attempted to make contact with them using primitive misunderstood magical rites or their Elder Thing bestowed psychic powers.
These poor fools were inevitably mutated, driven mad, or enlightened. From their brief psychic contact, they learned the Great Old Ones were almost omnipotent in power and would eventually emerge from their slumber to reshape the world in their image: an action that would result in humanity’s extinction. This time would be known as “when the stars were right” and created the earliest doomsday cults of the Great Old Ones. Nyarlathotep sent several of his avatars among them to help uplift the resulting doomed race in order to see if they would amount to anything.
Contact with the Great Old Ones resulted in the offshoots of humanity known as the Deep Ones (worshipers of Cthulhu), the Faceless Ones (worshipers of the Other Gods), Serpent Men (worships of Yig-Seth), and ghouls (worshipers of Shub-Nigguarath and Tsathoggua). These offshoots maintained the ability to breed with humans even as they eventually moved to different portions of the Earth or disguised themselves.
Much of the early human history with these offshoots passed into myth and legend with the fall of Atlantis, Acheron, Hyborian Age, and Stygia. Simply put, modern scholars or cultists obfuscated the true history of Earth as legend or mythology. The cultists of the Great Old Ones believing that the end of the world would make them gods beneath the gods rather than exterminate them like any other vermin.
The End of the World (“The Rising”)
Much of human history would be secretly defined by the conflict between cults fighting conflicts over which Great Old One or Outer God was the greatest (as if they would notice or care about such efforts). Much of human religion and science would be defined by half-understood glimpses into the greater universe by psychics or fragments of knowledge.
Perhaps the most complete and authentic book on the subject of the world’s true history would be authored by Abdul Al-Hazred, called the Necronomicon. It would describe the Old Ones, Other Gods, branches of humanity, the End of the World, and many rituals to channel the power of the sleeping beings.
By the 1920s, it was understood by many governments and academic institutions there were secret forces in the world. The greatest center of learning about this subject would be Miskatonic University in Arkham, Massachusetts. Humanity believed after several small occult wars in the shadow of “normal” history that it could survive the coming apocalypse or perhaps outlast it.
Humanity was wrong.
When the Great Old Ones rose, humanity was slaughtered en masse by the massive psychic powers of their kind. It not even war as attempts to use weapons of mass destruction were barely noticed by the beings. Worse, the laws of physics and time were broken. The Dreamlands swallowed the universe and not only was the Earth consumed but every galaxy as well as every star. What followed was not the end of humanity but the beginning of a new universe hostile to life as it once was. Humanity has survived 100 years in the shadow of the Great Old Ones. It may not survive much longer.
The Esoteric East (“The New England Wasteland”)
The Esoteric East consists of the North East of the former United States and parts of Southern Canada. It is a vast desert that is crisscrossed with small towns, villages, and the occasional city that has managed to emerge in the Rising’s wake. Most of humanity has been rendered extinct but the survivors are hardy as well as benefiting from the fact that few creatures of the New World actually care about their existence. While the universe is immensely hostile, indifferent, and uncaring to mankind–that applies to other species too.
Technology has roughly reverted to a early Industrial level with a focus on steam, easily repairable weapons, and domesticated creatures. Many of the animals and foods humanity lives on are changed in strange ways but they have been able to subsist on them regardless. Part of this may be that magic is much more powerful as well as prevalent. In a very real way, humanity continues to be able to live because they dream powerfully that they can and that has a tangible affect on the world even in a small way.
Humanity continues its bigotry in some forms, though, as while most humans have gotten past their previous racial bigotries, they now hold distaste toward mutants or those who bear inhuman ancestry. Ironically, the human offshoots are struggling to survive just like humanity and some have made peace with the race they formerly held in disdain. If mankind is to survive the next few generations, it will certainly have to change to become something else.
Religion has been strongly impacted by the cults that were prevalent in the region Pre-Rising and now mix openly with more traditional faiths that have become “weird” now that the apocalypse has occurred. Atheism and agnosticism mix with maltheism as well as polytheism as beings exist who are not gods but might as well be are everywhere. Many psychics and regular humans touch the Old Ones with their dreams now and go mad but it is impossible to tell as it is an insane world.
New Arkham – A former US Air Force base turned city inhabited by the descendants of soldiers and “pure” humans of various races. They tend to be more technologically advanced than your typical Wastelander community but practice a nonsensical ideology about reclaiming the Earth for regular humans. They also bully and intimidate other communities for resources. They are one of the few places with any actual industrial manufacturing capacities, though.
Dunwych Nation – The descendants of a tourist group that took up residence in the ruins of Dunwich,MA. The Dunwych Nation is an alliance of tribes united by a shared culture and worship of the Other Gods as well as Great Old Ones. They have combined technology, survivalism, and magic to become a hardy but dangerous power in the region. New Arkham and the Dunwych maintain an uneasy rivalry.
Kingsport – One of the largest cities in the region and most prosperous. Kingsport caters to the Dunwych and other communities with trade and vice. It also possesses a still-functioning electrical plant of unknown energy sources. Sadly, Kingsport is also a place where slaves are marketed from by the Deep Ones.
Miskatonic – A community constructed around the libraries of the university that have since been moved to the building’s old steam tunnels. Miskatonic has become, ironically, a cult itself as it works with the Great Race of Yith to seek some way of keeping both their races alive.
New Innsmouth – After Cthulhu failed to recognize the Deep Ones for their faith, a purge of hybrids commenced to rid their race of “impurities.” The survivors included one band of refugees that headed in-land nearby a saltwater lake. They are a decent, albeit fishy, frontier people.
Scrapyard – A fairly typical settlement in the region that is built around an oasis. The locals practice an uncomfortable relationship with a nearby ghoul settlement that provides them resources in exchange for the bodies of their dead.
So how do vampires work in The United States of Monsters and Supervillainy Saga verse? Probably not a question you have spent much interest in but something that I have spent a lot of time thinking about. There’s hundreds of different kinds of vampires in fiction and getting the rules down for how they work is just the kind of thing I like to do. So, I figured you would like the notes I keep to when writing about them.
If not, well, don’t read the article.
The Origins of Vampires
Vampires are descendants of the demon queen Lamia, who was a human girl from a tribe of early humans from something like 100,000 years ago when neanderthals still roamed the Earth. Sacrificed to demonic forces by her tribe, she was instead possessed by the spirit of Tiamat-Abaddon, Queen of Hell, and transformed into the first vampire.
Lamia constructed the ancient demon-ridden civilization of Acheron and Stygia before ultimately having it destroyed by a volcanic eruption followed by the revolt of transformed human slaves. The vampires, rather than side with Lamia, revolted against her and her demonic masters in order to become masters themselves. Their leader was Lamia’s grandchilde, Marduk, who became known as the savior of the vampire race. Most of their kind died in the subsequent civil wars or at the hands of shifters, mages, and human warriors. Either way, the survivors have forever remained with humanity.
How to create a vampire, draugr, dhampyr, or Blood Servant
The most common way to make a vampire is to suck the blood of a human being and share blood. However, this is actually not enough by itself. The blood is merely a vessel for a sharing of life force. Vampire blood alone cannot turn a dying person into a true member of their race but will instead turn a human being into mindless cannibal draugr.
Instead, the vampire must sacrifice some of their power and it leaves them weakened until age restores it. As such, vampires do not create regularly and it is suicidal to try to change someone under at least fifty or sixty years of age. Most don’t turn until they at least a hundred. Much more common for younger vampires is to make Blood Servants who drain only a little of their master’s power in exchange for halted aging as well as health. It also creates a psychic link between master and slave.
Vampires are capable of procreation, though only a handful of sexual couplings will produce offspring out of thousands. Dhampyr are effectively Blood Servants without masters and age to adulthood before dramatically slowing their aging to a tenth of its normal progression. Most, ironically, end up becoming Blood Servants to gain full immortality. Dhampyr blood is rich and intoxicating that those unprotected by a master often end up as food or pleasure slaves to Old Ones. Dhampyr are notably frighteningly intelligent as well as freakishly strong even as children.
In addition to direct transformation, it is possible to become a vampire by using the Book of Midnight, Bloodsword, or Chalice of Blood that directly transforms one into a Old One. These objects of power created by Lamia are sacred objects to the vampire race and icons representing them are among their few religious objects. Known Progenitor vampires who did this are Dracula and Mandy Karkofsky.
The Vampire Life Cycle
Newly created vampires are called Youngbloods and are extremely weak compared to later incarnations of their race, sometimes causing those changed to be furious with their condition. They are vulnerable to many traditional vampire weaknesses including verbena, holy items, holy places, holy words, wooden stake, fire, decapitation, sesame seed counting [yes, really], or sunlight. Entering a home uninvited weakens them and they are physically dead during the day even in sunless rooms. They are subject to the mental domination of their creators and usually only display enhanced physical attributes plus one or two powers.
The Need is at its worse during this time and few are able to avoid killing if they feed directly, at least not without their master’s control keeping them in line. One small benefit is that animal blood will sustain most of their needs but they must feed at least once a month on human blood or they will degenerate into draugr. They also sometimes develop one or two abilities like the power to summon animals or read minds.
Roughly two hundred years into their life cycle with rare exception, vampires become Old Ones and undergo a metamorphosis. They lose their vulnerability to sunlight, though it leaves them lethargic and also lose most of their vampiric weaknesses. Indeed, they will regenerate any injury even to the point of death barring it was inflicted by another powerful vampire or astral being [demon, angel, or god]. Old Ones have stronger control over the Need and can go weeks without feeding, though doing so can result in them entering hibernation (possibly for all eternity). Only human blood can sustain them, though.
Old Ones develop multiple powers like shapechanging, psychic abilities like the domination of others [animal or man], shadow manipulation, and preternatural movement through time. Most use their shapechanging and mental domination to become unnaturally beautiful and appealing to victims. Magic remains the province of those who could learn it in life and only a handful of vampires possess the ability.
Finally, those vampires who reach a thousand years of age go through a third metamorphosis that turns them into Ancient Ones. Ancient Ones are the inspirations for beings like the Gorgons, Grendel, Baba Yaga, and a variety of other monsters throughout history. They are hideous to behold but capable of assuming pleasing forms when they desire. Ancient Ones have strength and speed that vastly exceed that of their forebearers. They have also usually mastered dozens of abilities that allow them to perform miracles even to other vampires.
Ancient Ones are almost impossible to kill without a holy or unholy weapon of great power. Gods have been known to take human form to prevent their domination of the Earth. Thankfully, a great lethargy usually takes over the Ancient Ones as their Need weakens to the point that even blood provides little joy. Those that do regularly feed on emotional energy as well as life or the Earth itself, leaving their surroundings dead as well as depressed.
Ancient Ones can and do live in caves or ruins with no contact for centuries as they ponder memories or eldritch mysteries. Many live vicariously through their descendants, often possessing them or experiencing life through them. Only a handful have the iron will to maintain active ambitious lifestyles.
Progenitor vampires possess the power of the Ancients potentially but none of the disfigurements or knowledge of how to use their powers. The Bite
Despite vampires being capable of sexual reproduction, blood is their primary desire as well as release. For the vampire, the drinking of human blood directly is intoxicating as heroin mixed with sex. So much so that many vampires kill even when full and live for the pleasure of the hunt even when more ethical opportunities for sustenance. A vampire that cannot control their Hunger as a youth is called a Bleeder and considered a danger to all their kind, though, so few are allowed to live if they do not develop control within a couple of weeks.
The Bite noticeably causes an incredible euphoric rush with humans akin to sex or drugs and is every bit as pleasurable for humans as it is for vampires. The magic of it results in the wounds allowing the release of blood at a slower level so that they are not fatal even if they reach arteries as well as seal up quickly. Feeding from the same human more than once every two months is dangerous, like giving blood but many vampires create Harems using their Blood Servant bond. This allows humans to be fed on every few of days and makes them ravenously hungry. They also tend to be addicts and toys for their masters. More like pets than people.
Great news! I’m pleased to say that I have been nominated for two audiobook awards at the Indie Audiobook Awards at the HearNow Festival.
PARANORMAL: ELDRITCH OPS by C.T. Phipps as narrated by Jeffrey Kafer
Derek Hawthorne has ascended to become a member of the all-powerful Committee, which rules the world through the nebulous House. The House, officially, exists to protect humanity from the vampires, demons, and other forces of darkness that imperil humanity. Unofficially, it exists to protect its own power.
When his old partner, Christopher Hang, turns up as one of the undead — Derek is nonplussed to say the least. Christopher also has a message that troubles the tiny remains of Derek’s conscience: The House is running a secret project to not only control supernaturals but eliminate them. Now, Derek has to figure out if he’s to side with the supernatural or humanity or neither. Oh and did we mention Dracula, pirates, and werewolves were involved, too?
SCIENCE FICTION: AGENT G: ASSASSIN by C.T. Phipps by Jeffrey Kafer
Agent G, now going by the name Case, thought he’d won. He’d exposed his former employers, shared black technology with the world, and killed the man who’d started it all.
Unfortunately, history slows for no man. After a volcanic eruption decimates the United States, G spends the next decade witnessing humanity rebuild itself into a corporate-run dystopia.
Preferring to the be the boot rather than the ant, Case has become a powerful executive in the new cyberpunk world. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean he’s immune to his past. Contacted by the only woman he ever loved, Case finds himself, once more, embroiled in a conspiracy to take what little the public has left. Now, he has to decide whether to save what remains of the world or rule it.
Gary Karkofsky, a.k.a. Merciless: The Supervillain Without MercyTM, has decided to give up supervillainy and embrace the path of righteousness. Unfortunately, he’s terrible at it, and no one wants him to be their superheroic protector. That all changes when a talking raven arrives with the perfect quest to make his mark: Rescue the president’s daughter from Dracula.
Unfortunately, Gary is being led into a trap. The location of Dracula’s castle is in Satan Swamp, which is where Gary suffered one of the few defeats of his life. There’s also a camp full of superpowered children, the return of alternate reality allies, a pair of psycho killers in love, and the return of an old enemy.
Enjoy the latest installment of the Supervillainy saga!
I have fantastic news! 2020 was a hard year for anyone but it was especially hard on the writing process. Yet two of my manuscripts have now been completed, edited, and turned into Crossroad Press for publication!
THE HORROR OF SUPERVILLAINY
The Horror of Supervillainy is the seventh volume of the Supervillainy Saga and I’m pleased to say one of the best. Gary has decided to ditch supervillainy for the side of angels but he’s terrible at it. Thankfully, an opportunity to provide his bona-fides come in the form of a talking raven who wants to give him a chance to rescue the President’s daughter from vampires! But is it a trap? Of course it is.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELK STREET
The third and final Bright Falls Mystery novel is finished! Jane Doe is now at the height of her powers but, unfortunately, that doesn’t pay the bills. Taking on a security job with a horror film company that wants to use “real” monsters in its production. Unfortunately, the movie is threatened by a force that quickly turns its attention to Jane. Plus, Jane finally has to make a decision she’s been avoiding for years.
I’m very pleased to have done an interview with Paul Lafferty about my Agent G and Supervillainy Saga series. The author of Down the Lane did a fantastic job discussing various subjects with me and I am very pleased to have had the chance to discuss matters with him. I hope people will check out the interview if they have the time.