Brother Sebastian is halfway up a mountain in Vermont, hell-bent on interrogating an old woman in ashack, when he gets the order to abandon his quest for personal vengeance. He has to find a missing Inquisitor, or, more likely, his remains. He’s reluctant, to say the least. Not only will he have to stop chasing the best potential lead he’s had in years, this job—his first solo mission—will mean setting foot in the grubby black hole of Providence, Rhode Island. And, somehow, it only gets worse…
If he’d known he would end up ass deep in witches, werewolves, and ogres, and that this mission would jeopardize not only his sanity but also his immortal soul, he never would’ve answered the damn phone.
I took another step into the shop, pushing against the waves of evil. On the next set of shelves, I saw a severed hand in a large clear jar. The hand of a slain witch contains the knowledge of the deceased. The possessor then has that knowledge, all her spells and tricks. It’s one of the reasons witches were burned years ago...
A flash of movement from the other side of the room caught my eye. Two handmade Raggedy Ann style dolls were each held fast to the counter by a small black iron chain. The dolls were sitting slumped, as though alive and waiting for release. High-pitched, girlish voices came from them, full of hate, malice, and insanity. A sign in front of them said they were Hogaana Dolls.
A summoned spirit—a soul called from Hell—can be captured and enslaved by a strong or skilled witch. Trapped between here and Hell, the spirit can act as an oracle and tutor—a guide for witches trying to learn and experience new levels of power and what I’d call madness but she would refer to as “clear thinking” or “a deeper understanding.” The drawback is that a spirit is still ethereal and can escape easily unless tightly contained and constantly fed power to keep it here. The bound spirit can be transferred into a vessel to contain it in a form, a body...
My hands were shaking, my stomach roiled, and my eyes stung from the candles and incense. I wanted to flee...
I needed to leave and report back. This was beyond my abilities.
When I looked up, a tall, thin woman was staring at me from behind the counter. Her gray hair grew in clumps between patches of gnarled burn scars. She was dressed in a tight jumpsuit, stained with blood. Rings covered her hands, and I saw the deep purple of porphyrite in one.
Her face had an odd twist to it, as though someone had taken a screw, driven it into her nose, and turned it. She was a Screwface—a witch who thrived on pain and torture. A witch I wasn’t capable of breaking, or even dealing with. And now it was too late for me to escape.
Only a very special type of Inquisitor—a man without empathy, one who would be called a sociopath in the regular world—could deal with them. Formed into teams called Hammers, they’re elite, but they die even faster than regular Inquisitors. Not only do they train longer and harder than my regular Brethren, they receive special instruction on how to deal with Screwfaces. And despite all this training and conditioning, they’re still sometimes reduced to a pitiful weeping mess after one of their Purges.
Her smile reeked of madness and pain.
One of the dolls moved and shrilled, “Make it bleed.”
She glanced at it then raised the hand with the porphyrite ring, which was glowing and snapping in a purple and black nimbus. She was unleashing some spell; only magic was that mind-bending color. “Goodbye, false monk.”
When did you start writing?
On this series I started the first one about ten years ago. I'm not sure if I will ever use it, it is a kind of Origins story. But once I wrote it I was kinda hooked, I realized there were many many more stories about Sebastian that needed to get out. I wasn't in a hurry, and I took my time, hence the slow pace. Since then I am almost finished with my fourth novel in the series. It's funny I wrote my first book long before I'd ever heard of any of the other authors that write along similar lines. The first time I read Larry Correia, Junior Inquisitor was with my editor. I wish I'd read him earlier, his creation of a useful silver bullet is better than mine.
What research did you have to do?
Quite a bit on Providence, it's been a long time since I've been there. And lest anyone think I hate Providence, I do not. I just needed a decent sized town for creatures of madness and mayhem to run around in. I could have picked Worcester, New Bedford, even Hartford. I went with Providence. I also spent time learning about the different orders of monks, so that part of the story would be authentic. On weapons I had a lot less research to do since I've used weapons ever since high school and quite a bit through out my twenty-eight years in the military. I've been over to Iraq twice, Afghanistan, three times for the military, and spent about a year in Afghanistan working for a private security firm. Every bit of equipment the Inquisitors use I have experience with, the same with their tactics, which made it easy to describe but boring to read. Most of the time when there is a fight people focus on what is right in-front of them. To give a story any kind of continuity and avoid “Well if you remember Bob,” or “”Tell me again what happened when the Ogre attacked,” dialogue I had to expand Brother Sebastian's peripheral awareness. At the same time I didn't want to descend into omnipotence, so it was a balancing act.
Why dark urban fiction almost horror?
I was really stuck trying to shoe-horn in my story into a genre, because it just didn't quite fit. I'm not trying to scare anyone, act as a warning to the populace at large on the dangers of Cthulhu, or teach a moral lesson like horror usually does. At the same time if you have a group of people who have powers that can and usually do harm regular people, your story is not going to be a happy one. Bad things will occur, people will die, and mayhem will run rampant. It's not dystopic, for most people magic never enters their lives and they go about quite happily unaware it actually exists. Those that do, however, experience all kinds of terrible events and traumas. Set more or less today that kinda makes it urban fiction, minus the romance. So dark urban fiction almost horror.
Are Wiccans witches?
Not in my books; completely different types of people and motivations. In my world witches are unrepentantly evil, more or less crazy, sacrifice innocents to gain power, and generally nasty all around. Witches will sometime prey on Wiccans, but they could just as easily go after a Girl Scout Troop, or the Moose Lodge.
Are there only evil women?
Of course not, in my first book, the two biggest sources of pain for Brother Sebastian, the protagonist, are both male; warlocks. There are different types of magic users, ones that have different skills or focuses, that I will reveal in due time, and some of the sub-types of magic users may be more male or female centric, but they are all nasty vicious people bent on blood lust and chaos. Evil is pretty much an equal opportunity recruiter.
Why aren't there good magicians like Harry Dresden or Harry Potter?
Those are differently worlds with different rules. Jim Butcher has within his series, The White Council and the Laws of Magic to reign in true evil. That kinda sorta works for Harry Dresden, but that does leave a lot of room for abuse as Harry's mother pointed out. If you notice in Harry Potter, Arthur Weasly, as nice as he is written, makes remarks about how clever Muggles are for inventing things like electricity and phones because they don't have magic. Like they're an occasionally bright child, there is a kind bigotry of low expectations. This is shown pretty clearly when the Minister of Magic visits the Prime Minister, and of course how Dolores Umbridge acts towards non-humans. There is some real nastiness in the margins of Harry Potter's world, and I think the stories are better for it. The other difference is in both of those worlds, one is born into magic or not, and they grow into their power, no one reads a strange book and has magic unleashed upon them as in my world.
I took, I think, a harder, and more realistic approach as to what would happen if there was magic. It's power. People rarely handle power well, especially if they get it suddenly. A decent comparison is when people win the lottery. They tend to go a bit crazy with all of the new possibilities open to them now they are a millionaire.
Imagine you had the power, magically, and from across the room, to slap someone who was rude, maybe they're yammering away on their cell-phone in public, perhaps they're driving like a jerk, maybe talking during the movie, cutting in line, whatever. Now if you could do that, and no one would know that it was you doing the slapping, and there was no way you'd be punished by the law for doing so, would you be tempted?
Even if you never slapped anyone, but knew you could, how would your attitude change towards regular people? Would you start to hold them in contempt, just a little, because you had abilities they did not? How would your attitude change towards following the law knowing you were above it?
Now toss in some evil entities encouraging you to do more than just slap around people who get in your way and you have a real monster being created.
Does the Government know about witches?
No. First off remember most people can't see magic, just the aftermath. Could you see a politician getting up in front of the cameras and saying, “magic is real,” and not be laughed off the stage? What modern government could admit there was a problem that most people can't directly see, can't measure, and that the government couldn't fix? They deliberately turn a blind eye to magic and engage in wilful ignorance, and will silence those who point out that there is a problem. Bureaucracies are very self-protective, ask any whistle-blower, pointing out the Emperor has no clothes leads to punishment, not acceptance.
Even if you did convince people there was magic, witches, and evil made manifest,what do you think would happen? Would people pick up their pitchforks and start weighing suspicious characters to see if they weighed as much as a duck, or would they seek witches out hoping for favours and power?
Why can't the Government hire those that can see?
I had thought about it. Larry Correa's does this with his Monster Hunter series, the protagonists are in league with a shadowy part of the government to eradicate monsters and suppress monster uprisings. Works for him, I'm more cynical. In my mind if you have ten government employees who know about monsters and it'll be news in a week. Governments and conspiracies just don't work out. Remember if two people having consensual sex in the White House can't keep it secret, how would it be possible that an entire agency, or bureau, or department could hide the existence of the supernatural?
With Rick Gualtieri's Bill the Vampire series, the vampire's have bribed off cops and various important government officials to keep quiet, and that could work to a point. However, I'm not cynical enough to think that would work well long term either. Now these are their worlds and they say what does or does not work, but for me I figured that a shadowy guerilla war between evil and the Church worked. Witches stay out of sight because they fear being captured/enslaved/ sacrificed by more powerful magic users, and the monks do so because no one would ever believe them, and some would actually work to keep them from spreading fear or exposing government incompetence.
Why wouldn't people believe in magic?
We live, for better or for worse, in a culture that follows scientific principles, and reason more or less. How would you even measure magic? “I'm going to sacrifice ten kittens and compare how much power our trapped witch receives versus the ten puppies we sacrificed yesterday?”
Why Catholic Monks?
I needed a group that was world-wide, large enough that they could have a secret society with in them and old enough that they could have been battling evil for a very long time. I also need to explain from where the darkness comes with out copying anyone. Larry Correia uses the Cthulhu mythos, Harry Potter is fairly agnostic, religion is rarely mentioned, except Christmas. Rick Gualtieri has a hint of Catholicism with the Templars protecting the Icon from the icky vampires. Jim Butcher has a bit more Catholic mythos with Angels and Knights of the Cross, so I went further; full on Catholic.
So where are you now in your series?
Of the ones I decided to move forward with, The Soulless Monk, the next in the series is with my exceptional editor Danielle Fine and I am finishing up The Witch's Lair now. With luck that will happen in the next week or so.
When are they coming out?
Not sure. Should be later this year, but I'm sure The Soulless Monk will be out by fall, if not sooner, but there are lots of factors like re-write time, outside influences like the wife and helper dog and their willingness to put up with my antics that will have an impact on timing. A big one is, obviously, how many copies and how quickly they are sold of Junior Inquisitor. From those sales I'll be paying my editor, to work on the other two. I'm hoping to sell a lot as she gets real cranky when it comes to her money, and she does such a good job it feels wrong to try and pay her in kindness and with my good looks.