FRRRREEEEE Audiobook! (SAVAGE SPECIES: NIGHT TERRORS!)

So you click on this link and you enter your email address and you choose SAVAGE SPECIES: NIGHT TERRORS.

And as easy as that, you’ve got a free audiobook. Pretty awesome, huh?

Then, if you decide you want the whole she-bang (Why does that look so incredibly inappropriate?), you click on this link and get the entire SAVAGE SPECIES novel for under ten bucks.

Listen to the terror...

Listen to the terror…

Again…awesome.

Have a great day, friends. Gotta get back to my work-in-progress…

Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Graze” or The Song That Reduces Me to a Trembling, Weeping Mess

Confession time. Oversharing time. Look away in embarrassment time.

But that’s why I’m here, right? To make everybody uncomfortable?

I have a powerful physiological reaction to certain songs. I’ve always been extremely sensitive and incredibly susceptible to…well, everything. Certain weather makes me shiver with delight. The mere mention of a movie can transport me back to my exact feelings the first time I watched it. A piece of art will transfix me, and I’ll be unable to look away (even when the museum has closed and the security guards are threatening physical violence). Books, poetry…well, they wallop me in any number of ways: maniacal laughter…a seeming fugue state in which I’m lamenting the state of mankind…tears of joy or heartbreak.

Percy Shelley, Soul-Toucher

Percy Shelley, Soul-Toucher

And music does it to me too.

There are several songs that hit me hard. I’ll write about others one of these days (like Journey’s “Only the Young,” Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle,” and Bon Jovi’s “Never Say Goodbye”). But Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Graze” as played by Yo Yo Ma hits me so hard I can scarcely breathe. And I only wish I were exaggerating.

Only the Young

Only the Young

You see, for some reason, even though it has no lyrics the song reminds me of my son. Bubba, we’ll call him. I guess it’s a well-known fact that the father-son bond is a deep and important one. But the bond between my son and me is so deep it penetrates the earth’s core, erupts through some crowded street in China, and burrows its way into deepest space. And every day it goes deeper, so much so that no number of light years could ever hope to outpace it. I love my Bubba so much it aches.

So…about that song.

I have an incredibly vivid and active imagination, and sometimes a song will spark it, will enflame it, will consume it. Until a full-fledged movie is playing in my mind. My inner eye takes over, and I might as well not be physically present. I listen and imagine and stare off sightlessly as the movie unfolds.

So what do I see when my I hear Yo-Yo Ma’s version of “Sheep May Safely Graze” (I won’t even try to type the actual Bach title)? I see this:

IMG_0372 2

And this:

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Only it’s in motion. Here is my little boy on my hip as we wade through a creek in Santa Rosa, California. There is Bubba staggering around in his diaper, his chubby arms thrown out for balance, his chubbier legs in constant but jerky motion. I see my boy falling asleep against my shoulder in a cab after our first Cubs game. I see him crying when he tripped and split his forehead open on a piece of the driveway I should have fixed before it hurt him. I see his sweet little smile as he makes a joke at age two, his hopeful look at my reaction. I see his frustration as he tries to learn how to read at age five. I see him all over the place, everywhere, the images on a vivid, haunting loop in my mind. And God, do I love him. So much that I can hardly stand it.

That song. Man…that song.

You and Yo Yo Ma...You two cut me deep, man

You and Yo Yo Ma…You two cut me deep, man

I’ll stop now and let you listen to Bach and Yo Yo Ma. It probably won’t do to you what it does for me. And I realize a large contingent of my readers might be cocking its collective eyebrow at me and telling me to chill out, dude, it’s just a song.

And it is. But also, it isn’t. It’s more. Much, much more. It’s a pair of calipers that plunge into my chest, pierce my heart, and drag it out into the open where I can’t conceal it, can’t hide it, can’t do anything but ache and try to breathe and wish I could take a version of my baby boy at every age and carry all those versions with me for eternity. Because I love him so much it destroys me.

I won’t even get into the song’s title—which I didn’t know until I went to write this blog post—and how symbolic it could be. I’ll just say to those of you who are affected by art, by nature, by music…

You know what I mean.

Peace.

CASTLE OF SORROWS Arrives (at My House)

It’s always exciting to receive a box full of books; it’s especially exciting when those books are yours. And by yours I mean mine. Because tonight it’s all about me. And our neighbor, who brought over some desserts for us because that’s just how she rolls. My wife is a master dessert-maker, too, so don’t think I’m putting down her baking skills. Because she, well, she’s really awesome at baking those—

How did I get on this subject anyway?

Back to me and my new book.

My six-year-old daughter comes in with a box that weighs more than she does and thrusts it into my hands. I already know what it is, so together she and I dig into it like a couple of gluten-free fanatics digging into some gluten-free food stuffs. Okay, that sucked spectacularly, but at least I avoided the kids-on-Christmas-morning cliché, right? Maybe? Please?

The Return of Gabriel

The Return of Gabriel

So CASTLE OF SORROWS comes out in less than a month. It’s my darkest novel yet. My longest too. And my first sequel. I’ll be signing copies of it at Scares That Care. And you can pre-order it now.

So that’s enough of that. I need to get to sleep soon (translation: by one A.M. because of my perpetual insomnia), so I better wrap this up. Have a good night, friends, and I hope you get some baked goods from someone special. And I hope they’re gluten-free, if you’re into that. And if you’re not, I hope they’re nothing but gluten. Like gluten pie. Or Snickerglutens.

Peace. Regardless of your stance on the explosive issue of gluten. Can’t we all just get along?

 

The Toddler Roar

I posted a few days ago about my six-year-old’s tendency to sing opera whenever things get stressful. I figured today I’d post about my three-year-old’s habit of roaring, barking, or growling at me whenever she doesn’t get her way.

My wife calls her the Little Sergeant. I’ll call her the Peach, which was what I named her back when she was born (and then got really sick).

My Daughter in Command Mode

My Daughter in Command Mode

So Peach likes to get her way. I mean, we all do, but Peach reeeeaaalllly likes to get her way. She’ll ask for something: “Daddy, ketchup,” in a sweet voice. When I don’t answer right away, she’ll repeat it in a semi-sweet voice. But contained in those dulcet three-year-old tones is the looming thunderhead of an all-out fit. Because I still haven’t received the “please” I’m waiting for—and yes, she’s been reminded often enough to know she should say please—the request becomes a demand: “Daddy! Ketchup!”

At this point I’m often reminded of this scene from So I Married an Axe Murderer (“Head! Pants! Now!!!), and I’m sure as heck not going to be treated like a large-craniumed grade-schooler. So I remind her: “Peach, what should you say to Daddy?”

so-i-married-an-axe-murderer

She smiles and says “Peeezze.” (The sweetness of her smile at this point makes the missing L even more endearing.)

So I give her the ketchup. Peach figures, “Hey, I scored once. Let’s head back to the well again.”

“Juice, Daddy!”

I give her a deadpan look. “Have you finished your milk?”

Some of the sweetness vanishes from her blue eyes. “Juice, Daddy!”

“Peach, I can’t give you juice every time you ask for it. Otherwise, you’d spend the day in a sugar coma.”

Peach bats her eyelashes. “Peezzze?”

I falter a moment, my daughter’s inherent cuteness wearing me down. Then, knowing what her reaction will be, I take a deep breath and say, “I’m sorry, honey, but not right now.”

Her eyes flash with something ancient and disconcertingly sinister. “PEEZE!” she barks, like a drill sergeant breaking down a new recruit.

“Honey, I—“

“WHUH!!!!!” 

Now, with perfect diction this would sound like “Ruh,” or something uttered by a mezzo soprano golden retriever. But Peach still inserts Ws for Rs, and the result is the above roar.

lion-roar

Actual Picture of My Daughter Roaring

I try to reason with her.

“Honey, Daddy’s not being mean, he just wants you to be healthy.”

“WHUH!!!!!”

“Because if you drink too much juice, you’ll—“

“WHUH!!!!!” 

“—and you won’t grow the way—“

“WHUH!!!!!” 

“—and would you stop barking at me?!”

A pause.

“WHUH!!!!!”

Anyway.

You might have noticed that I haven’t posted about my work much in the past couple weeks. That’s because I’m about to assault you over a long period of time (not unlike my daughter and her roars) about a) my new SAVAGE SPECIES audiobook, b) my upcoming July novel CASTLE OF SORROWS, c) my September novella, d) my January novel THE NIGHTMARE GIRL, and e) the two novels I’ve been working on this month.

The Return of Gabriel

The Return of Gabriel

So remember to roar at your loved ones when they deprive you of juice. It brings the family together.

Bryan Smith’s KAYLA AND THE DEVIL

Guts and honesty. Those are Bryan Smith’s main writing tools. I see reviews from time to time that wail and remonstrate about sex, profanity, and violence in a book, and if those put you off, by all means avoid this one. Because the sex, profanity, and violence are there, and Smith doesn’t apologize for them.

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Nor does Kayla, his protagonist, apologize for who she is. At least in the beginning. She’s an incredibly unique creation, and though she can be abrasive, selfish, and frustrating, she’s also sharply drawn and utterly realistic.

I mentioned guts and honesty earlier, and though I stand by those claims about Smith, I feel I’ve undersold his writing, which is immaculate. As a fellow author, this is the kind of writing that motivates me to do better, to not settle, to push my limits, and to mine the depths of my abilities.

smith

KAYLA AND THE DEVIL is a five-star read. Smith deserves every compliment he gets and is one of the best writers of dark fiction working today. You can check it out here.

Stress Opera

My middle child, my first daughter, she’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. We’ll call her Sparkle, for her sparkly blue eyes. I can’t begin to describe her in a short blog post, but I’ll share these quick details:

She’s six.

She’s never in a hurry.

She is addicted to pickle juice and our puppy.

She loves to sing opera at full volume whenever things get stressful. This has the effect of augmenting the amount of stress everyone else feels. Tenfold.

It's not too late to get help.

It’s not too late to get help.

For example, my three-year-old daughter shrieks like a limbless, honey-covered rabbit in an ant farm every time I wash her hair during baths. Never mind that I’ve been bathing her five times a week since she was born—each rinsing is a new exercise in aquatic terror. And as my youngest is flailing and screeching and generally doing her best Shelly Duvall-in-The Shining impression, Sparkle begins to belt out a tune that sounds something like this one from Carmen.

My Three-Year-Old's Reaction to Hair Washing

My Three-Year-Old’s Reaction to Hair Washing

Or, when the puppy decides to machine-gun large dollops of diarrhea in a series of splats that somehow spans three rooms, and I begin to grumble and growl under my breath as I wipe it up and try to keep my three-year-old from tromping through the minefield of foul-smelling slop, Sparkle will begin to serenade us with her Pavarotti-on-heroin vocal interpretations.

Even better, just the other day we were on vacation, and we got stuck in traffic for twenty minutes. Gridlocked. Inhaling the unwholesome stench of the black exhaust-vomiting diesel truck directly in front of us. Three of our five family members had to urinate—okay, one of them might have been me—and we were all hungry. And just to make the entire situation even more pleasant?

From the back seat: “LAHHH-LOH LEWWWWWWWW LO DA DAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Sounds from the Back Seat

Sounds from the Back Seat

Now I know many of you are well-intentioned, and that many of you are furthermore stroking your chins and tilting your heads and psychoanalyzing the situation thusly: “You know, Jonathan. It seems to me that Sparkle’s explosive, ear-splitting opera singing is actually just a coping mechanism to help her handle the stress she’s experiencing.”

To which I say, I KNOW!!!!! But does that make it any less stressful for her audience?! For the rinser of the shrieking three-year-old’s hair, for the collector of the witheringly malodorous canine fecal matter, for the bursting-bladder driver and inhaler of diesel fumes?!?!?

Eco-Friendly Ambience

Eco-Friendly Ambience

Not that it’s all about me.

Okay, now that I’ve got that off my chest, please know that this was all in good fun. I love Sparkle endlessly and find her Stress Opera quite hilarious (after the fact).

Have a great night, friends. And remember to belt out some opera whenever things get tense.

It’s wonderful therapy. Especially for the listener.

A Word about Today’s Youth

Some of you know that I’m a teacher as well as a writer. I keep those two positions separate, not because I’m trying to live a double life, but because I don’t ever want it thought that I’m trying to push my work on my students.

Anyway.

I hear folks—mostly in the comments section of websites—bemoaning how terrible today’s kids are. They’re technology-obsessed, they’re entitled, they’re weak, they’re evil. You want the truth from someone on the front lines?

That’s utter, unadulterated crap.

The Leadership of a More Responsible Generation

The Leadership of a More Responsible Generation

Kids today are like kids fifty years ago, which were like kids a hundred years before that and a millennium before that. They’re products of their environments and their genetics (I’m more of a nurture guy, but I’m not ruling out a smattering of nature too). If a kid is technology-obsessed, that’s because he’s allowed to be. Or his parents are technology-obsessed too. If a kid is entitled, that’s because he has learned to be. If a kid exhibits other negative traits, well, were the rest of us perfect when we were that age? Are our memories really that short? I was a screaming mass of insecurities and paranoias and issues in my teens, and I was considered fairly well-adjusted.

The Shining Example of Reality TV

The Shining Example of Reality TV

So let’s drop this pretense that kids are just different these days. They’re not. You know what they are?

Awesome. Yep, I said it. I think today’s kids are growing up in a scary time in which any mistake they make can be revealed to everyone they know or ever will know in the blink of an eye. They’re exposed to the terrible behavior of adults on television, on the Internet. Heck, in their own lives.

Priorities

Priorities

And the kids I work with, for the most part, see it for what it is—unacceptable behavior. The kids I work with aren’t perfect—they’re people, remember?—but they’re doing their best to be the best people they can be.You know, kind of like the rest of us? I wish everyone could see the kids that I see every day and understand just how much passion they have, how much sincerity, how much intelligence. How much heart.

So no, I’m not deifying today’s kids, but I am saying that, at the very least, today’s kids are as good as other generations have been. And there are many moments when I suspect they might be even better.

That’s all. Have a great night. And stop shouting at those vicious hooligans to get off your lawn.

Scares That Care Weekend

Howdy, friends and countrymen and women and out-of-countrymen, and why did women have to come third? Have I just exhibited blind adherence to an outmoded syntactical tradition or unintentionally perpetuated a symptom of patriarchal oppression? I don’t know. What I do know is I think women are awesome, and if my manner of address came off offensively, well, doggone it, I didn’t mean for it to.

*mops brow, sighs*

On a less exhausting note, I have an awesome announcement to make. You ready? Here goes…

ScaresThatCareWeekend-Logo
I will be a celebrity guest at the upcoming Scares That Care Weekend event in Williamsburg, Virginia from June 27th to June 29th.

Jack Ketchum Fanboy

Jack Ketchum Fanboy

“But Jonathan,” you say, “you’re not a celebrity.”

To which I respond, “SHHHHHH!!!! Don’t tell anyone!!!!”

The Grand Master

The Grand Master

It is surreal to look at this page and see my image (scroll down to the Authors section) under the same heading as Brian Keene, Jack Ketchum, and the other amazing authors listed there. It’s also surreal to share the page with Tony Todd (Candyman), Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th), Yaphet Kotto (Alien), William Atherton (Ghostbusters), Doug Jones (Pan’s Labyrinth), and Chris Freaking Sarandon—ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! The star of Fright Night and The Princess Bride and The Nightmare Before Christmas?!?! I’m on the same page as that guy?!?!

Childhood Nightmares

Childhood Nightmares

Okay, sorry. I got a little worked up there. But you can see why I’m excited, right?

For those book lovers out there, check out this list of authors:

Brian Keene
Jack Ketchum
Tom Monteleone
Brian Moreland
Kelli Owen
Kristopher Rufty
Mary SanGiovanni
Hunter Shea
Bryan Smith
Wrath James White
Jonathan Janz

Legend

Legend

I put myself last because, well, I went with alphabetical order, and by some strange turn of events I ended up first, and one look at my name above any of those authors—not to mention directly atop Keene and Ketchum—felt too bizarre for words. But the point remains…what an incredible lineup!

You should make your plans now to attend. Proceeds from your tickets will go directly to families who need it, so the event is for a fantastic cause. I’ll be signing all weekend, participating on a Friday panel, and doing a reading on Saturday with my good friend (and kick-bootie writer) Hunter Shea.

Todd_zpsf02e8f7b

I’ll end by saying two things. One, it’s an incredible honor to be a part of this event. I’m deeply thankful and grateful to be included. Secondly, if you’re anywhere near Williamsburg this summer, I’d love to meet you. The event is going to be amazing, and the people involved all have generous hearts. I can’t wait!

*runs off to stare fixedly at my shrine collection of Jack Ketchum books*

For My Wife on Mother’s Day 2014

Life in the trenches. That’s what it feels like sometimes with small children. Being a parent is the most amazing experience of my life, but to do it well takes more energy, patience, and time than I ever would’ve imagined. This isn’t a complaint—it’s simply a preamble about my fellow foot soldier, my wife of ten years (this April), my best friend, and my true love.

Mommy with Child #3

Mommy with Child #3

I met her in the summer of 2000 (yep, those of you who are mentally calculating have already begun to realize it took me too long to propose to her—I’ve never claimed to be an incredibly bright man) when a community theater troupe decided to put on Cinderella for its summer play. They had a Cinderella selected already—I was told she had an amazing voice and was quite pretty—but they needed a *cough cough* Prince Charming *clears throat* and for some reason decided to ask me.

Though I wondered just how desperate they were to invite me to be their male lead, I was intrigued by the opportunity. I’d been in plays before and wondered what it would be like to be someone other than Unnamed Chorus Member Whose Face You Can’t See Because He’s Standing Behind a Badly Painted Plywood Castle.

Mommy with Child #2

Mommy with Child #2

So I agreed to play the role, wondered what on earth I was thinking, lost a lot of sleep, and eventually showed up for our first practice.

Where I met my future wife.

I recall thinking they were right about what an angelic voice she had, but they were way off about her being lovely. She wasn’t lovely. She was a freaking stunner.

Mommy with Child #1

Mommy with Child #1

Even better, she had an incredible personality. She was kind, warm, genuinely funny, and a hundred other things I wanted in a girl.

We wouldn’t get married until several years later, but when we did, we expanded our family fairly rapidly. Our first child was born after fifteen months of marriage.

And for the past eight years my Cinderella has been doing battle in the trenches. Changing diapers. Staying up late at night with crying kids. Kissing hurts. Doing laundry. Cleaning the house. Cooking. Cooking some more. Making a pre-supper snack. Making a post-supper snack. Taxiing them back-and-forth to school. And a thousand other duties.

Mommy with the Tribe

Mommy with the Tribe

During that time our marriage has remained strong. We love each other, are devoted to each other, and are still best friends. I also still find her beautiful—even more so than when we first met.

So Wifey, thank you for being such a wonderful mother. Thank you for doing all the invisible but essential things you do each day to help our kids, to help me, and to keep our family strong. Thank you for your sense of humor and your love. I’m deeply thankful for you. I love you more than you’ll ever know and am proud to be your husband.

Mom of the Millennium

Mom (and Wife) of the Millennium

Happy Mother’s Day. You’re my baby!