The darkness is where stars shine their brightest. It’s where we find what sustains us, what keeps us pushing on. Like when:
A young man learns his family’s darkest secret from a faded circus clown.
Shoemaker elves pit Old World craftsmanship against New World cunning.
The last soldier of the empire confronts an uncertain future in 1950’s San Bernadino.
A children’s entertainer has a crisis while looking for his ex-girlfriend in Puppetopolis.
The darkness is all around us.
Sometimes the darkness wins, but we need the darkness in order to shine.
Dark but for the Stars collects eight stories from the past few years, including one never-before published, and every one of them is weirdly special to me. I didn’t realize that until I was looking doing the final proof and format. Maybe that’s true for every author, or maybe I’m just stranger than I gave myself credit for.
“Bethlehem Grove” was written for an anthology that needed a very specific niche filled: set in the 1980’s featuring a storm and the Cthulhu mythos. There was a story I’d been wanting to tell about a lost place in Southern California for a while and setting it in the 80’s gave me a layer of context that fit like a glove. This and “Fishwives of Sean Brolly” jockey for favorite Mythos story in my head.
“Fists of Felt” is my first puppet story. It’s a thing for me. Spurred by a single nightmarish mental image that I ended up working into the reveal at the end of the story, it’s long held a special place in my heart. Plus, how many chances does a guy get to write “existential puppet noir?”
“Odd Jobs” is the lone sci-fi story in the collection. The support character of Roi had been rolling around in my head for years but every attempt to write her prior to this story fell flat. I loved the character, but I never had the right story for her. Now that I’ve finally given her an origin, I hope to revisit her later in her career arc as she evolves into the badass of my original vision.
I wrote “Last Dragoon of the Inland Empire” for my brother Matt. I went to visit him and his family over the holidays several years ago, and one morning he took me on a drive around Redlands. Seeing his adoptive hometown, I was able to understand how magical the town was. Plus, it gave me the chance to write a little historical fantasy which I don’t get to do often enough.
“Ink Calls to Ink” spun out of a random conversation with friends I don’t see often enough these days. While I loved the story, it took Angel Leigh McCoy’s suggestion to turn it into a novel. Of all my long form works, the novel Ink Calls to Ink is my personal favorite. And it never would have happened without this little story as a seed.
I have a friend who doesn’t like clowns. While watching a rodeo clown with him a few years ago, I came up with the clown portrait hallway that appears in “Saint of Clowns.” I’d only written about clowns once before, a super short piece I put in Christmas cards one year. This little coming of age story marks my first non-genre publication (despite the clown justice), and manages to complete the story started in that Christmas card.
“Kid Gloves” was my first publication. I wrote it as a ghost story of sorts, a tale of revenge from beyond the grave. Like the story that precedes it, this is ultimately a story about fathers and sons. I was in a kind of rough place when this story was picked up, and its sale was a light in the darkness. As a side note, Large Laurence was based on a former co-worker of mine. The job was shit, but he was always great.
Where the hell do I even start with “The Price of Cream?” Sometime I’ll have to make the original ending of this story available. In the initial draft, an abusive employer is turned into a pair of high fashion boots. The problem was that to fit the anthology, the abusive employer had to win. So I rewrote it. The new ending turned out to be much, much darker. What’s not to love about that?
Dark but for the Stars is now available, complete with author notes.