Wow! It’s been over a year since I last dusted off this blog and posted anything. In fact, I’d actually closed up shop here for most of that time, and removed the link from my site. After some thought, I’ve decided not only to bring it back again, but to try and get back into the habit of updating it, not just without about news of my writing, but about life in general, too.
But first, a writing update. If you don’t already know, DARKNESS FALLS, the very-long-awaited conclusion to the Brethren Series has finally been completed, and will be released in ebook and paperback on August 30, 2019. You can now pre-order the ebook version through Amazon.
Thank you so much to all of my readers who have so patiently waited for it all of these years, and those who have reached out to me along the way, offering support and encouragement during a time when, I have to admit, as a writer, I was feeling pretty down and out.
As I was dusting off the ol’ blog here, I discovered a post from several years ago, right around the time the last Brethren book, In the Heart of Darkness came out. In it, I talked about how some of the events mentioned in the story had actually occurred in real-life, and how I like to do that–find people, places, and events from history that I can incorporate into my stories.
This, ironically, was going to be the topic of this new blog post, as well, because I did the same thing several times in Darkness Falls. For example, check out this sneak peek from Darkness Falls, an exclusive excerpt I’m sharing only on my blog:
In 1838, Aaron had traveled with his father and Julien to London, England. He remembered feeling excited about the trip, as giddy as a child at the prospect of visiting another country, not to mention the sea voyage that had taken them there. They had embarked aboard the S.S. Great Western, a paddle-wheel steamship, and the first of its kind to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Sailing from New York City to London would have taken well over a month, but aboard the Great Western, they’d made the crossing in less than two weeks.
It had been a strange time for Aaron, still soon enough after his recovery from Lamar’s assault that he had no memories of his life before he’d woken up in the care of Dr. Samuel Wilks in Boston. He supposed in retrospect he’d seen the world from an almost childlike perspective, then, everything brand new and fascinating to him. Everything an adventure.
It had been before Lamar had ever dreamed up anything like the juice, more than a century and a half before he would start ordering Aaron to be regularly tortured and mutilated in order to harvest the somatotrophin from his blood, the enzyme that allowed him to heal at an accelerated rate—faster even than any of the other Brethren because he’d been given the first blood.
It had also been more than fifteen years since Lamar had first arrived at Dr. Wilks’s doorstep in the Charlestown district of Boston to deliver a bewildered Aaron—who hadn’t known or recognized him—back to Kentucky. By that point, the son of a bitch had grown bored enough with his game of making Julien beat the shit out of him to have given up on it. Or at least cut back, which had meant for a very brief while, Aaron hadn’t hated his father all of the time. In fact, sometimes, like during that trip to London, he actually hadn’t minded the old fuck much.
Lamar had rented accommodations for them, a modest house on Bruton Street, near Berkeley Square in Picadilly. On their first night there, he’d brought them to another home in the St.-Martin-in-the-Fields district for what Aaron had at first mistaken to be a dinner party of some sort. A loose crowd of maybe a dozen people had gathered, well-to-do men and women who’d stood around in loosely assembled groups, speaking together in hushed tones over cocktails. At least until they’d all been ushered into a large parlor on the home’s second floor. Here, they’d been introduced to their host, a man named Dr. Thomas Pettigrew.
Pettigrew, it seemed, had been an antiquarian, as well as a renowned surgeon. His area of special interest was mummies, and that was why Lamar had brought Aaron and Julien there that night, to watch as Pettigrew had hacked, sawed, ripped, and dismembered the mummified remains of an Egyptian woman he said had been buried in Thebes more than 2,000 years earlier.
In his lifetime, Aaron had seen plenty of things come and go, fads and trends that had come in like wildfire, only to eventually wither and fade away into forgotten obscurity. In the 1930s, it had been swallowing live goldfish. In 1980s, Cabbage Patch Kid dolls and kush balls. In the 1830s, it had been anything and everything Egypt—and nothing more so than mummies.
Pettigrew had put on a good show, not just leaving the corpse prone on a table as he’d set to work removing the wrappings binding her, layer by layer. He’d attached the mummy to some kind of contraption fashioned out of levers and pulleys, so her arms and legs had moved, rising and falling in a jerky, grotesque fashion, pivoting her from side to side as he’d worked. Around the room, he’d set out what he’d called ushabti, or funerary containers carved in the likenesses of animal-faced Egyptian deities in which the mummy’s internal organs had been stored.
“The ancient Egyptians believed that the ba—the mind—was separate and distinct from this, the ka, or physical body,” Pettigrew had told the crowd of morbidly fascinated onlookers while he worked. “The ba could leave and return again at will, which is why the ka had to be preserved after death. So the mind would always have a form to return to.”
Julien had seemed vaguely disturbed by it all, or at least more interested in the free brandy Dr. Pettigrew had served, and he’d left the parlor less than half-way through. Aaron, however, had remained, and he remembered watching, fixated and amazed by the theatrical autopsy. When at last, the mummy’s spindly remains had been revealed, skin like dried-out leather stretched tautly against underlying bones, the faintly discernable outline remaining of eyelids, lips, and nose, he remembered the smell of her—musty and vaguely spicy, like apples that had been left to dry-rot in a cellar corner.
Dr. Thomas Pettigrew actually existed, and did indeed have a penchant for throwing private parties in his home during which he would “autopsy” Egyptian mummies in bizarre, theatrical displays such as the one described in Darkness Falls. Pettigrew considered himself to be an expert in the field of antiquities, and even published what was long considered to be the definitive guide on ancient Egyptian burial rituals and practices. You can read more about Dr. Pettigrew here.
Likewise, the steamship described in the scene, the S.S. Great Western, also existed. It was the world’s largest passenger ship from 1837 to 1839. You can read more about it here.
For what it’s worth, yes, people in the 1930s really got their shits and giggles by swallowing live goldfish, and those of us who lived through the 1980s remember only too well the maniacal craze induced by Cabbage Patch Dolls every year at Christmas.
Stay tuned for additional sneak peeks at Darkness Falls. As for me, I’m going to hit the grocery store. When you’re out of toilet paper and milk, it won’t wait until Saturday.