Five Unique Voices. Five Disturbing Visions. One Nightmare.
From Bram Stoker Award-nominated authors Josh Malerman, the newly minted master of modern horror, and John F.D. Taff, the “King of Pain,” to the mind-bending surrealism of Erik T. Johnson, the darkly poetic prose of J. Daniel Stone and the transgressive mania of Joe Schwartz, I CAN TASTE THE BLOOD offers up five novellas from five unique authors whose work consistently expands the boundaries of conventional fiction.
I CAN TASTE THE BLOOD opens the doors to a movie theater of the damned; travels the dusty, sin-drenched desert with an almost Biblical mysterious stranger; recounts the phantasmagoric story of birth, death and rebirth; contracts a hit that’s not at all what it seems; and exposes the disturbing possibilities of what might be killing Smalltown, U.S.A.
As diverse as they are, in voice and vision, the work of the five celebrated authors assembled in this stunning volume of terror share one common theme, one hideous and terrifying nightmare that can only be contained within the pages of I CAN TASTE THE BLOOD.
The book has an introduction by John F. D. Taff about the impetus of the book and an afterword featuring comments by each author.
Edited by John F.D. Taff and Anthony Rivera
My Best Ideas Come to Me in the Bathroom
By John F.D. Taff, author and co-editor I Can Taste the Blood
As an author, one piece of useful advice I can give authors practically in any field is that ideas come from everywhere. Literally. Everywhere. Every aspect of your life, every person you meet, every conversation you overhear, every place you visit, every odor you smell, sound you hear, injury you absorb or inflect, physical or otherwise, everything is fodder for your writing.
Simply put, if you're an author and you're not strip-mining your life, you're not taking full advantage of the arsenal that is right at hand.
Take, for instance, I Can Taste the Blood. It's a collection of five novellas from five wildly disparate authors—Stoker-Nominated and Bestselling author Josh Malerman, J. Daniel Stone, Joe Schwartz, Erik T. Johnson and Stoker-Nominated Author John F. Taff. I kind of shepherded this project, coming up with the original idea, then hand-selecting the writers I wanted to participate in this strange endeavor.
But where did the idea come from, you might ask? (And please do, otherwise I'm writing this guest blog for absolutely no reason.)
A bathroom. The idea came to me in a bathroom.
Specifically the run-down bathroom in a dive bar in south city St. Louis.
Let me explain.
Black Thorn Pub & Pizza is a place my wife, Deb, and I used to go to regularly when we still lived in St. Louis, before our picking-up stakes and traipsing to southern Illinois. But that's a whole 'nother story, as they say.
Anyway, Black Thorn is kind of known in the area for its pizza, which is an approximation of deep-dish Chicago-style pie. It's delicious, certainly not nutritious, and goes great with a couple of beers or hard ciders, which, incidentally, my wife and I partook of that very evening.
Being a man of a certain age, after the first beer or two, I had to…well…make room for more beers. So, I excused myself and teetered over to the men's room. Now, this men's room was probably not too different from many a men's room at many a dive bar—oppressive odors, dank surroundings, sticky floors, etc.
As I stood at the urinal, I faced the cheap press-board walls of the stall, which were absolutely covered in graffiti. Ya know, the usual stuff, vulgarly lilting couplets, accusations of the basest sort directed at specific people—ex-wives, cheating girlfriends, etc.—and physiologically questionable sexual practices. But there, a gem among the almost literal turds, was this:
I Can Taste the Blood.
Wicked, weird, thought-provoking. Scrawled in a huge, loopy handwriting in marker right at eye level. Who penned this freaky epithet? For what reason? And why right there and then? And you carry a marker into a dive bar restroom? Really?
All of this and more went through my mind as I zipped up. I made my way back to the table and told my wife about the phrase, offered to even show her. She politely declined.
But the more I rolled that phrase around in my mind, the more I knew I had to do something with it. I brought it to one of my closest writerly friends, Joe Schwartz, and he wanted to use that phrase in something of his, too. It didn't take much longer for both of us to realize that this idea, I Can Taste the Blood, was bigger than the two of us. We needed to find some more talented, unusual voices to share in this vision we'd concocted.
We roped in Dan, Erik and Josh to form a quintet of authors, each voice patently different from the next. And this collection of disparate voices, this anthology of completely unrelated—yet related!—stories, somehow seems to work. Counter-intuitively, perhaps, but lord, it turned out pretty darned good.
So, let this be a lesson to all of you out there cutting the lawn or driving to the store to get milk or having dinner with your mother-in-law. All of it.
What you're really doing, ultimately, is creating ideas for new things to write.
Now, go and taste the blood.
Josh Malerman is the author of Bird Box and Ghastle and Yule and some forty other novels and stories that he wishes he could release all in one day... and he just might do that! He lives in Michigan with his fiancee Allison Laakko and their two cats Dewey and Frankie. Used to be three cats, but Dandy died on Halloween, begging the question: will the color orange always make Josh sad? Or will he see Dandy amongst the pumpkins, deliriously, happily, for the rest of his days...
J. Daniel Stone
J. Daniel Stone is the pseudonym for a hotheaded Italian kid from New York City. He has been a menace to society since 1987 and continues to terrorize local bookstores, art galleries and dive bars.
When he is not causing mischief, Stone reads, writes and attends as many rock shows as possible. He is the intermittently proud father of two bastard children: The Absence of Light (2013) and Blood Kiss (2016). Somewhere, out there in the dark, one can find more of his illegitimate spawns telling imaginative stories. Find him on Twitter @SolitarySpiral.
In 2008, Joe’s Black T-Shirt: Short Stories About St. Louis was published as a personal favor for friends of Joe Schwartz. The idea that people outside of Schwartz’s limited Midwestern world could find these dark, and occasionally personal, stories entertaining was as exciting as it was mysterious for the first-time author. Since then, he has written two more collections of short stories as well as the novels A Season Without Rain and Adam Wolf and The Cook Brothers - A Tale of Sex, Drugs and Rock&Roll. The kind of stories he tells have been described as “a sharp punch to the gut” and disarming “like a sunny day in Hell.”
Erik T. Johnson
Erik T. Johnson doesn’t believe in order or boxes. He became a writer because he can’t make a straight line to save his life—since stories consist of terrifically asymmetrical, random sequences of random shapes. Also because of what Georges Bataille meant by: “I write the way a child cries: a child slowly relinquishes the reasons he has for being in tears.”
Johnson is a Written Backwards DARWA Voice Award-winner whose fiction appears in renowned places, such as Space & Time Magazine, Tales of the Unanticipated, Qualia Nous, and all three volumes of the award-winning Chiral Mad series.
Erik is certain unreliable narrators don’t exist—only unreliable authors. He will prove his uncompromising reliability when his first book of short stories is published in 2016.
Visit Erik at www.eriktjohnson.net.
Stalk him on Twitter @YES_TRESPASSING.
Curse him at your own risk, do other stuff when it suits you.
John F.D. Taff
John F.D. Taff has been writing for about 25 years now, with more than eighty short stories and four novels in print. Six of his stories have been awarded honorable mention in Ellen Datlow’s Year’s Best Horror & Fantasy.
His collection Little Deaths was named the best horror fiction collection of 2012 by HorrorTalk. His 2014 collection of novellas, The End in All Beginnings, was published by Grey Matter Press. Jack Ketchum called it “the best novella collection I’ve read in years,” and it was a finalist for a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection.
Taff’s work also appears in Single Slices, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories and The Beauty of Death.
He lives in the wilds of Illinois with a wife, a cat and three pugs.
About Grey Matter Press
Grey Matter Press is a Chicago-based publisher whose mission it is to discover and cultivate the best voices working in dark fiction. The company is committed to producing only the finest quality volumes of exceptional fiction for its readers.Since the publication of their first volume in late 2013, Grey Matter Press has released a succession of bestselling titles, including two of which that have been nominated for the prestigious Bram Stoker Award. FANGORIA Magazine says of the publisher: "Grey Matter Press has managed to establish itself as one of the premiere purveyors of horror fiction currently in existence." For more information visit GreyMatterPress.com or follow the publisher on Twitter at @GreyMatterPress.
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