This collection marked a turning point for my career. There is nothing particularly remarkable in my memory about the make-up of the body of work represented, but it brought me the first Bram Stoker Award for my fiction – the work I set out to do so long ago…an award granted by my peers. It acknowledged that yes, I can do this…even well.
Defining Moments is the award-nominated collection by author David Niall Wilson. This book collects a lot of stories written over a lot of years. It was first published by Welsh publisher Sarob Press. Defining Moments was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award as a collection. The story “The Gentle Brush of Wings,” first published in this collection, WON the Bram Stoker Award for short fiction. The collection was originally issued in only limited and lettered states, and is long sold out. Copies go in excess of fifty dollars apiece.
Contents: Preface by David Niall Wilson
The Lost Wisdom of Instinct
For These Things I Am Truly Thankful
More Than Words
The Call of Farther Shores
Bloody Knife and Morning Star
The Gentle Brush of Wings*
The Death-Sweet Scent of Lilies
To Dream of Scheherazade
A Taste of Blood and Roses
The Milk of Paradise
’Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky*
All previously published stories have been newly revised by the author for this collection. *Previously Unpublished.
DEFINING MOMENTS: In the title story of my collection, Defining Moments, we meet a young thief. He has a friend named Maudlin – in fact, he has a bunch of friends with odd names. They like to steal, buy liquor, and gather on the roof of an old building … except this time, it’s not the same…there is a knife, and blood, and even talking to his Angel in the cemetery hasn’t set things right.
Defining Moments is my tribute to Ambrose Bierce, and the Incident at Owl’s Creek Bridge story I read so long ago as a kid. The story made me smile when it was published…it was one of a string I sold to Seth Lindberg and Darren Mckeeman for Gothic.net – which not only was one of the best paying markets on the web, but was where the words of the cool kids hung out.
FOR THESE THINGS I AM TRULY THANKFUL: I used to work with this guy, Adam Greene. Adam used to work (way back machine) for a local grocery chain. He had a lot of stories about working in that store that were a bad idea to hear just before going shopping. At one point, he kept a sort of fake, and yet, not as fake as it should be journal…Food Hell…
That little bit of journal – Food Hell – got me thinking…and really, that’s what “For These Things I am Truly Thankful” is about. The inability to stop thinking, and moving from one thing to the next. Sometimes humans are clueless as a survival instinct… For instance…you are pouring a glass of water. It’s coming out the end of a tap that you wash on the outside only. Attached to a pipe that’s been in place for years, probably put there by a not-so-clean plumber with greasy tools. it travels MILES through old pipes from a plant…you see? The protagonist of this story does come to see…and to become unable NOT to see. It’s a cautionary tale, first published in the Marty Greenberg anthology HAUNTED HOLIDAYS.
THE LOST WISDOM OF INSTINCT: The Lost Wisdom of Instinct – next up in Defining Moments – was first published in DEATHREALM Magazine by Mark Rainey a long time ago. I wrote it specifically for that magazine, as I did most of the stories Mark published. It is a recurring theme of mine – the pulling back of a veil between our world, and something more.
In The Lost Wisdom of Instinct: a young man comes to the home of his deceased mentor to study the man’s papers. He meets the widow, who is gorgeous. Nothing is quite…normal…but nothing ever was with this professor. The papers are paranormal and metaphysical in nature…the widow? Is physical. I read from this at a WHC once and was told by a woman who heard it she had to go smoke a cigarette when it was over. The Lost Wisdom of Instinct is a story where Tarot cards, ritual, sex, and a lot of other things converge to bring the protagonist to an important life moment. It’s about opening windows and doors to other places (some of them in the mind). In “The Lost Wisdom of Instinct” Tarot cards are treated, not as fortune telling toys, but as they were meant to be treated – each a focus for meditation – a window to somewhere else..
“And what lessons have you learned, Alex?” Madeline asked, still smiling. “Have you opened any windows of your own? I recognize my husband’s words on your tongue. Have you learned enough, do you think, to bring him back through them? To clothe him and return his thought? Are you ready?” – Madeline Devonshire – The Lost Wisdom of Instinct.
MORE THAN WORDS: More Than Words” was first published by Brian A. Hopkins in his CD fiction anthology EXTREMES V – it was born during a “past lives” reading I had done at a psychic fair in San Diego, CA long ago. What if you had a past life…as my character in “More than Words” did…and it came back to haunt you? What if you remembered…and that memory bridged worlds?
That’s what happens in “More Than Words.” A researcher working on old scrolls in Egypt starts to hear things…and to have visions. Suddenly, his love of the old parchments, and his place in history, shifts. This is a very Twilight Zone style story, and one of my favorites, because the past-life reading I had suggested the very story as part of my own “psychic history.”
THE CALL OF FARTHER SHORES: “The Call of Father Shores” was in HORROR : The Best of 2005, reprinted from one of the DARKSIDE anthologies (for which all of us have STILL not been paid) by the editor who will remain nameless. This story has a LOT of things in it for me to discuss. It is a tribute to William Hope Hodgson, and was originally written for a book of such tributes that never came to pass.
The Call of Farther Shores involves a lot of my own childhood in Charleston, Illinois. The barber shop…my step-father was a barber. I have distinct memories of the scent of that place – the cool old things hanging on the walls – and I added in details from the even older shop my grandfather took me to. You can believe magic happens in an old barber shop.
There are other memories…the bedroom my parents shared where we were ABSOLUTELY never allowed. The secrets it might have held always made me wonder. I never really understood my step-father, particularly back then, and so the working of his mind – and what he might find interesting, or precious, was a mystery.
TO DREAM OF SCHEHERZADE: “To Dream of Scheherazade” – a vampire story – tattoos. This was sold to Ken Abner of the late and lamented Terminal Frights Publications for his anthology …. Terminal Frights. Significant is that his guidelines said…no vampires. He also published my vampire novel This is My Blood.
Some tattoos tell bits and pieces of a person’s life. What if someone wanted their entire life story tattooed? What if they had money, and time? Would this be a blessing for the artist…or a curse? These, and more, are issues addressed in “To Dream of Sheherzade.”
THE MILK OF PARADISE: The Milk of Paradise. This is a favorite story of mine. It was published in City Slab Vol. 2 Issue 3 : this review at Tangent online has high praise for the story…I’ll link there and see if it piques your interest. City Slab Volume 2, Issue 3 Reviewed at: www.tangentonline.com.
In the story The Milk of Paradise, originally written for the ill-fated Verte Brum anthology of stories involving Absinthe, the protagonist is obsessed with the poem Kublai Kahn by Coleridge and the fact that it’s incomplete. Her efforts to create the Absinthe she believes the poet was drinking at the time draw her world in around her, and her friends along with her. Also, there’s Flubber…
THE GENTLE BRUSH OF WINGS: “The Gentle Brush of Wings,” 2007 winner of the Bram Stoker Award for short fiction. This is a story of obsession, and loneliness. It’s an otherworldly romance…it won me an award I’d been seeking for decades…and until it was in this collection, it remained unsold and unprinted. In this story, a very lonely man with an academic life acquires the find of a lifetime for his collection. Then he realizes he’s found something very much more.
THE DEATH-SWEET SCENT OF LILIES: “The Death-Sweet Scent of Lilies”. Ever wonder why Vlad Tepes (the real one) staked people? How much do you know about the historic figure vice the mythical guy with triple brides and a bat complex? This story – published in Children of Dracula edited by Ed Kramer gives one possibility on the Dracula “creation” story. I really love alternate history stories…they get caught in my head every couple of years. I call it “what if” syndrome. Only one cure. Write.
COCKROACH SUCKERS: Fans of my CLETUS J. DIGGS novel and stories will probably enjoy “Cockroach Suckers” – a novelette involving Elder Gods, giant Cock-a-Roach statues, Hally Penyuh peppers, and roadside attractions. This story was first published in this collection, and is one of my all time favorite stories. This is the first appearance of Jasper Winslow, who later on shows up as a close companion to Cletus in the other stories of Old Mill, NC. This story is one of three original to the collection.
‘SCUSE ME, WHILE I KISS THE SKY: The last story in the book, and the longest, was first published in this collection. There are a lot of things involved here – the local crop-duster that I have affectionately named Leon. We lost the guy who was crop-dusting here to an accident a year or so. It’s also about being trapped in a small town and a small world, following your dreams, hallucinogenic drugs, and, well, life. This is another one that is way out there, and yet, I like it.
And that is the collection, Defining moments.
The cover art for this is a wrap-around sized painting by my old Navy buddy and fellow “voyager” Don Paresi. Don is one of the best guitarists I’ve ever had the pleasure of jamming with, a songwriter, artist, author, and so much more. He’s still doing some comic art, and erotic fantasy pieces..search his name…he’s not hard to find.