A BIT OF WRITING (enjoy the sample)


I’M ON FIRE

James R. Tuck

I ain’t afraid of Lowell Fulson.

I know he’s a big motherfucker, got fists on him like cinderblocks. Hell, I’ve seen him pick up whole hogs and hang ’em to butcher. Damn things must weigh a quarter ton, but he picks ’em up like they’re nothin’. He’ll butcher five, six of ’em in a row, using the same wide-blade knife that starts razor-sharp but by the end is edgy and dull as cardboard.

Doesn’t slow him down.

Most folks are scared of Lowell.

But he’s got the heart of farmer.

It’s soft and yielding and even though it lets him butcher a hog six ways to Sunday, he ain’t got no hate in it.

No avarice.

No murder.

I ain’t scared of him at all.

Lowell wasn’t home when I went to his place.

But that ain’t why I went over there.

* * *

The frame of the door flakes when I knock, white paint coming off in long, thin rectangles. I can smell the rust of the screen in the door and it makes my teeth hurt.

It smells like blood.

A fly buzzes my face, zipping across my cheek like a stray bullet. I’m just about to knock again when she comes to the door.

Little Helena.

She stands on the other side of the door, wearing a blue gingham dress she got three summers worth of growing ago.

It ain’t much longer than a shirt now.

She might be wearing shorts underneath, but it’s mid-August, sweaty and humid and she might not be. I can’t tell.

Barefoot, she barely hits the center of my chest. Her hair’s up, pinned on top of her head, long strands hanging down, stuck to her skin with a fine layer of perspiration. She looks at me sullen-eyed, lids half shut.

I keep my voice low. “Hey, little girl, is your daddy home?”

She doesn’t answer for a long minute. I don’t fidget as she looks at me under those long, black lashes and shaggy bangs. “He’s gone to market with the new slaughter.”

I know this.

She knows I know it too, but she doesn’t call me on it. She’s playing the same game I am, the same game I’ve played with girls all across this Holler.

Cat and mouse.

I wonder which one she thinks she is.

My hand slides down, brushes the handle of the screen door. “I ran into him at Shautey’s General last week. He told me to come by and pick up a book.” Lowell is always trying to get folks to read, as if anybody wants to stick their nose in a book when they could be out livin’. “He must’ve forgot he’d be out of town when he offered.” I open the door and step in.

“Daddy doesn’t tend to forget much.” She stands her ground, doesn’t back up.

This is a new move in the game.

This close I can smell her. Sweet girl sweat in the bloom of womanhood. Eighteen summers and damn near ripe. I breathe deep and it lights my veins like a white gas flashfire deep in the coal mines, coming on sudden and hot and inescapable. It burns me through, drawing my skin tight.

I’m on fire.

I glance around. The house is clean, spotless even. I can still see the presence of Lowell’s wife, Helena’s mother, gone some eight years now. Lowell loved that woman and she still haunts the place, her taste painted across every wall in every room, her ghost stamped on Helena’s features, darker skin and sultry eyes over high Lakota cheekbones. The only part of Lowell to make it’s mark is Helena’s heavy brow and her bramble-thick, honey-blonde hair.

I listen closely. I don’t hear anyone but us in the house.

I look down at her. “Did he go away and leave you all alone?”

“I’m old enough to stay by myself.”

Yes, she is.

I realize she’s looking at me with those witchery eyes and it’s been too long since I said anything.

What book were you borrowing?”

Damn.

Um . . .” I look at the bookshelf across the room. All the books are stacked two and three deep. It’s too far away for me to read any of the words on the spines.

Helena takes a step back, making distance between us, and I see it in her eyes, in the line of her narrow shoulders.

She’s on to me.

Inside my stomach the dark thing I’ve had as long as I’ve had breath curls on itself, stretching like some great cat inside my skin.

My mojo rises.

It’s my bad seed, my other, my id, my compulsion, my demon riding me hard and the devil’s breath stokes the furnace in my guts and I can’t help it, I’ll burn to cinders if I don’t quench myself.

Helena.

I must’ve moved because she darts back, putting the couch between us.

Prey runs.

My blood boils like an overfull kettle.

Helena points at the door. “You need to leave. Get on out of here.” Raising her arm lifts the hem of her skirt.

No shorts, just a long, sleek line of coltish leg.

I knew it.

I walk toward her. Each step the fire builds. It hangs heavy as I clench and unclench my fists.

“Don’t be like that, little Helena. You got no idea the things I can do to you.”

I see it. The switch. I watch a line of defiance settle into her shoulders. The fear is raw on her face but she ain’t gonna run, not Little Helena, not any more.

Dark coffee eyes narrow. “If you touch me, I’ll kill you.”

I laugh and it feels good rolling out of my chest. It’s black and evil, the edge of the darkness inside lapping out over my tongue.

She doesn’t move as I get closer.

Silly girl.

My hand clamps on her thin arm. I’m so hot inside it should burn her, raise blisters on her smooth skin, but it doesn’t. I jerk, twisting her to the left.

She doesn’t scream. Doesn’t start crying like the rest. Her eye’s go dark and narrow and her mouth hard with clenched teeth.

“My daddy’ll . . .”

I yank her close.

“Your daddy ain’t here.” She smells . . . intoxicating. Strawberries in her hair and the ozone crackle of fear across her skin.

It makes my eyelids stutter as I draw in a lungful of it.

“You’re a dead man if you do this.” she hisses.

The laughter rolls again.

“You’re wrong little girl. I ain’t never been more alive.”

She fights me all the way to the bedroom.

* * *

I wake up, a freight train running through the middle of my skull.

It’s dark. I reach out for Helena.

She ain’t there.

Just a warm wet spot where she shoulda been. The sheets I’d used to tie her down are wadded up next to me, soaking wet.

Damn little hellcat. Must’ve slipped the knots while I was passed out.

She couldn’t have gone far. I’ll catch her. I’ll make her pay for running off.

She thought she’d had it rough before.

I’ll show her.

I try to sit up.

My head weighs a thousand pounds, pinning me to the sopping sheets. I try to turn, to roll off the mattress, and a lightning sharp jag of blinding agony cuts a six inch valley through the middle of my skull.

What the hell was that?

I reach up, fingers sliding on the slick skin of my forehead, stopping at a thing, a hard thing jutting from above my eyebrows. It’s warm. Thin as cardboard and about as sharp.

I know what it is before I see little Helena standing beside the bed looking down at me.

Lowell Fulson’s butcher knife is sticking out of my head.

My mouth opens. I try to talk, but the thing in my brain that lets me is outta whack, not working, on the fritz, zitz, zzzzz.

Helena’s face is a shadow, hair a honey-toned veil that hides her from my dimming sight. She’s put her dress back on. It hangs loose around her chest, torn in my need.

Her voice is the voice of an angel.

The Angel of Death.

“You should of listened. You should of left me alone.”

Her hands move and light sears my eyeballs. Hard. Like a slap from a two by four. It’s a match, a simple wooden match with a sulfur head and rough stick body. Now I can see the fires of Hell in those dark, witchery eyes.

“I told you, you were a dead man.”

From around me comes the smell, the silky, heady scent of raw gasoline.

Helena turns to the left, then the right, looking around the room. My eyes jitter to where hers go and I realize this is Lowell’s room. The big bed. The pictures of her mama. I didn’t know it was their room when I drug her in here. I didn’t care.

She sighs. The match flame flickers with her breath.

“Daddy’ll be sad, but it’s time he let Mama go anyway.” The match light is an orange kiss on her tanned face. “With the insurance money we’ll get finally get outta Butcher Holler. We’ll move to Culvert City and start a new life.”

She drops the match and walks away.

 

 

This first appeared in TROUBLE IN THE HEARTLAND from Gutter Books, a badass crime fiction anthology. I’ll be putting this in the special limited edition print version of TEDDY BEAR very soon.

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TWO MOVIES YOU SHOULD SEE (immediately)


Saw Captain America: The Winter’s Soldier on Friday.

That was a good damn movie. Best of the Marvel movies so far. Even better than Avengers. It kicked ass from start to finish.

Go see it. Go right now.

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And I saw Gravity at the dollar theater in 3D.

I knew the ending and I was STILL on the edge of my seat. That movie in 3D is almost too intense. Damn. Find it in your town and see it while you can.

 

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FOUR MONTHS!!! (or holy shit I’ve been slack.)


Sorry about that.

I kinda fell into the tattoo shop and have been doing that. Hey, I neglected it for most of 2012 and a LOT of 2013 for the writing gig so it was needed. But rest assured, it’s all coming up nicely.

Now I have been working on writing, never you fear. I have several projects in the air. Some from Big Publishers, some from Small Press, and some that are Indie Published.

Try this:

https://jamesrtuck.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/5257d-robots2bunleashed.jpg

ROBOTS UNLEASHED!  from Mechanoid Press.

My story GODRIDER is in here with two other stories of robot goodness. I didn’t do the cover art, but I did do the layout.

Get it HERE

And don’t forget my two Indie Published releases

HIRED GUN

THAT WAY LIES MADNESS

Both of them put a chunk of change in my pocket and they kick ass too!

 

FOR THE LOVE OF COULSON (or how Marvel Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. can not suck)


Alright. This is hard to admit.

HARD.

Cause The Avengers pretty much came out and rocked my ass, your ass, and your grandma’s ass off. Cause Joss Whedon is a badass who can chew up corporate crap and spit out magic rainbows of love. Cause Clark Gregg is a bonafied Terminator when it comes to playing Agent Coulson, stealing a multi-million dollar movie from some of Hollywood’s biggest players. Cause, dammit, this is the Marvel Universe and the sumbitchin Avengers part of it.

But the really real truth of the matter is that Marvel Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. pretty much blows.

Hey guys, pose like you're gonna kill a franchise.

Hey guys, pose like you’re gonna kill a franchise.

I’m not the first one to say it so put your hair back on. The show is flat and boring. Nobody is engaging. I just don’t give a shit what happens because I know when the show starts that NOTHING is going to happen. There are no consequences. Everybody is exactly who they were when the show started and I feel they will remain that when the show ends. The actors have zero chemistry and even the indomitable Clark Gregg comes off as flat and muted.

Hell, it’s making me kinda hate Agent Coulson.

Yep He's dead.

Yep He’s dead.

So what can be done? I’m glad you asked.

FIRST this show needs to remember that it is a part of the Marvel Universe. We were promised that it would tie in and we have seen almost NONE of that. Yes we got a 30 second appearance of Nick Fury at the end of an episode, but where are the small nods? The inside fanboy references? The freaking copy of the Daily Bugle with SPIDERMAN: HERO OR MENACE? plastered across the front of it. Why hasn’t this team started running into A.I.M. or Hydra or any of the other bad guy organizations out there? You have about 30,000 C and D list heroes and villains you can swing into this show for almost no money. Hell, Thor hits in two weeks, just give me a red and silver streak CGI’ed across the sky and have Coulson comment on it.

It's like I made that shit up.

It’s like I made that shit up.

SECONDLY this show REALLY needs some consequence. Like the episode called EYE SPY. Crap episode. Nothing really happened. Had a glimmer of promise that quickly died. HOWEVER, they could have pulled that episode out by

SPOILERS WARNING!

simply doing one thing at the end. When the girl who they removed the eye from laid down at the end of the show and her eye began to flutter as she fell asleep they should have simply had the one eye left pop open and then do that zzzzt bloodspurt thing that happened to her handler.

BAM! all of a sudden you establish a few things. 1) Coulson’s team (and by extension S.H.I.E.L.D.) can miss things, which creates a helluva lot of tension. 2) It indicates that the person in control of the eye devices has a bigger plan and won’t simply disappear after this one episode. These two things could turn the show in the right direction because these two things are missing.

Truthfully they should call me and I can fix this show.

Here’s what the dealio should be: We all know that Coulson died in The Avengers movie. This Coulson is something else. He may be a Life Model Decoy, he might be a prototype of Ultron or Kang or a Doombot or a brainwiped Skrull or some other thing FROM THE MARVEL UNIVERSE that could possibly become the Vision. Regardless, he isn’t human and S.H.I.E.L.D. is field testing him.

He thinks he’s in charge of this team of misfits but truthfully THEY are handling him because he’s dangerous.

There are two scientists because they are both studying him using their different schools of training. Agent Ward and Agent May are there so that if he doesn’t work out they are the two with the ability to take him down. And the Rising Tide girl is the wildcard and the ONLY one who doesn’t know Coulson’s secret besides him. Of course her gig is to investigate and to mistrust S.H.I.E.L.D. so when tidbits of info that things are not as they seem come out, she is our way of finding out about it. She is our intro character. Once she finds out the truth she drops the knowledge on Coulson and he and her go off the rails.

Then we find out that this whole time they haven’t been working for S.H.I.E.L.D. at all.

Aw yeah son.

Aw yeah son.

BAM!

Seriously Joss, give me a call.

HAPPY THOR’S DAY! (or it’s release day so getcher sword and sorcery hot off the digital presses!)


So I had this hankering about, ohhhhh, a year ago. I wanted a sword and sorcery anthology, done right by a press who would not only appreciate the genre but actively enjoy it, that I could submit a story to. I have this character Theok who is a Northland barbarian living and adventuring in a sword and sorcery version of the Old Testament. He is a follower of Yahweh translated through his upbringing as a barbarian so he views and serves Him as a warrior God. It’s like what the Bible would be like if written by Robert E. Howard.

Anyways, I have long liked the way Seventh Star Press runs their ship. They put out a top notch product, promote the hell out of it, and their authors are really happy. So I hit up Stephen Zimmer, the go to man for all things Seventh Star, and said to him “You should make a sword and sorcery anthology and let me put a story in it.”

Zimmer then comes back with “We’ll do it, but only if you edit it.”

Wait, what?

I’d never edited anything before. But you know me, unafraid of my own limitations, so I said yes.

Actually, I said Hell Yes.

So a few months of clearing stuff off my schedule and getting in stories (over 200) I narrowed it down to a slim, trim 22 stories of kick ass. With length of each story being a factor we split it into two anthologies and viola: THUNDER ON THE BATTLEFIELD Volume: SWORD and Volume: SORCERY were born.

Toss in two stories featuring Theok, a KICK ASS cover by Enggar, and a lot more work than I would have guessed and in a blink you have a release day!

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Today the digital versions of both anthologies hit the E-stands and the print will follow in 2 weeks.

Go buy some, only $3.99 each for 24 stories of ass kicking sword and sorcery!

Here are the links for both volumes:
Thunder on the Battlefield: Sword
Kindle version: http://www.amazon.com/Thunder-Battlefield-Sword-ebook/dp/B00EE0YL8Y

Nook version: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/thunder-on-the-battlefield-james-r-tuck/1116359898?ean=2940148400639

Thunder on the Battlefield: Sorcery
Kindle version: http://www.amazon.com/Thunder-Battlefield-Sorcery-ebook/dp/B00EE15GY6

Nook verison: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/thunder-on-the-battlefield-james-r-tuck/1116359900?ean=2940148400660

 

VON TUCK IS THE MAN (or some pictures for your consumption)


So, with the royalty check one of the things I bought was a new camera. Here is what I have been doing with it 🙂

Needless to say, all pictures are mine. Copyright James R. Tuck. See that big name across them? That’s my photography handle. Respect it.

WM LIZ 7 WM CASH Adrienne 1 WM flashracktop WM HULAHOOP 2 wm shelby 3 WM SHELBY BACK

TA HELL WITH A MASS MARKET (my opinion as a reader on why I love Trade Paperbacks)


I have a ton of books.

I don’t know how much they actually weigh, but me and the Missus have a book buying problem. Actually, the phraseology on that is wrong. We have NO problem buying books. Ignore the fact that my TBR pile numbers near 100. Ignore also the fact that there are easily 20 current releases I have NOT purchased simply because I know when I do I will immediately read them thus pushing my TBR pile even further int he background. (Yes, I’m looking at you COLD DAYS by Jim Butcher. Fuck you, don’t make me feel guilty for not bathing in your sweet sweet cotton-candy scented literature. I’ll get to you. I will. I PROMISE. It is inevitable.)

Where was I?

Oh yeah, books.

Here is a pic of our new, grown folks books shelves and our library at the house.

ALL the books on the left two shelves are mine.

ALL the books on the left two shelves are mine.

 

So earlier I was thinking about books. The physical form of the book. I decided that I am totally over mass market paperbacks. I much prefer the size of a trade paperback.

Mass market paperbacks are now the cats of the publishing world in my opinion.

Now I’ll still buy a mass market, hell I bought one last night (SHARP by my good friend Alex Hughes). But if I can, I’m buying trades from now on.

Book four of the Deacon Chalk series will be trade paperback size.

My double anthology of sword and sorcery stories that I edited for Seventh Star press will be trade paperback size.

I’m actually going to push for any book released by me to be automatically in trade paperback size. I may not get it for everything, but it’s what I want.

They are easier to hold, easier to read, and easier to shelve. They are narrower, so you can fit more on a shelf, and with a mass market, you lose the 3-4 inch difference in dead space between the top of the book and the bottom of the shelf above it.

This post has no real merit. It was just a musing I thought I would indulge because, hey, fuck it, it’s my internet too.

So what’s your choice or opinion on this hot-button issue?

I DON’T KNOW IF I MISSPOKE OR WAS MISHEARD (I have an opinion on which it were of course)


Sorry, I started editing an anthology that became two anthologies and I looked up and a month was gone. I’m also about to remodel the tattoo shop I own (Family Tradition Tattoo) in Marietta, Ga so lots and lots has kept me away.

Anyway, I’m at JordanCon this weekend. This is a nice con. Real nice. Easy to work, 20 minutes from the house, the staff is super nice, and it’s loaded with folks I like:

Delilah S. Dawson

Alex Hughes

John Hartness

Deb Dixon from Bell Bridge Books

Anthony Taylor

Stuart Jaffe

Jana Oliver

I was on a great panel with Delilah, Alex, John, and Seanan Mcguire today where the topic of what we read came up. We gave our list and I said that I have been concentrating on reading some classic literature and award winners to see if they were worth the hype, ala, Hemmingway (yes), Falkner (yes), and others.

After saying it I felt the need to clarify that I wasn’t putting down genre in any way. I didn’t want anyone in the room to walk away with the impression that I think genre books aren’t “real” literature.

In my clarification the audience mistakenly thought I was putting down one of my co-panelists books which is the exact opposite of what I was saying. Now I’m not slick, but I don’t often misspeak (and I am never shy about an opinion) but my point that a good book is a good fucking book no matter where the publisher puts it and to be prejudiced by genre is dumb and limits you and no one else.

One of my literary heroes is Robert E. Howard. I have made no secret to that. He’s considered a hack by the wide, wide literary world. He wrote pulp, a LOT of it. He wrote about swords and barbarians and wizards and boxers and pictish kings and magic.

He also wrote about destiny, morality, love, valor, and metaphysical concepts such as genetic memory, immortality, reincarnation, and others. His wordcraft equals the greats of literature and I place him next to Cormac McCarthy.

Kurt Vonnegut is now considered literature, but trust me, he wrote science fiction and speculative fiction. The literati loves Neil Gaimen but he writes magical realism. It’s all genre dammit. Both of them are on the level of Harlan Ellison and the literati turns a nose up at him.

Genre is real writing folks. It just is. It’s not all vampire smooches and shit blowing up.

Go click the links in this blog if you don’t believe me. Order some books. Get your read on.

HOW FAR CAN I CARRY YOU? (or self-reliance)


There is a thing in this world that we are falling short of. It’s something that is vital to our health as a nation and as individuals.

It’s called SELF-RELIANCE.

The simple truth of life is that in this life you have to carry your own weight. It’s a complicated thing that you spend your childhood learning about and your teens figuring out how to do it. Once you become an adult you should have it worked out as to how you are going to take yourself through life.

Say you an me are going on a journey. The two of us are hitting the road and needing to go somewhere. We are walking. Now, I may not walk fast, but I can walk pretty far. The two of us could probably cover 10-20 miles before we had to stop. That’s a pretty fair piece.

I’m a big guy. 6’4 well over 300 lbs. I’m pretty strong. If you climb on my back I can probably carry you maybe a half mile before your weight would make me have to set you down.

Now pay attention to what happened in that example.

Both of us walking, carrying our own weight, we could go 20 miles.

Me carrying you, we could go 1/40th that distance. (and if I strapped up to your back we’d be lucky to make it 10 feet. (I am a heavy bastard)

Now this example carries over to your entire life. It applies to your work, to your marriage, to your friendships, to damn near everything you ever do. If we all carry our own weight we can go further. We can encourage each other on the road and inspire each other to reach destinations more distant than we would travel to on our own.

But we do it on our own two feet. Standing, walking, striding forward.

Walk beside. Don’t ride. You’ll get farther.

WHERE YOU AT, TUCK WHERE YOU AT? (or a general update)


So, it’s been a minute since I’ve blogged.

Sorry about that.

Here’s the happy haps so you can keep up.

First of all: BLOOD AND MAGICK drops like a lead elephant NEXT TUESDAY! (March 4th) so go buy it, review it, tell all your friends, show the love, and kick the ass.

Convention season is upon us, well, upon me anyways. I’ll be doing a boat ton of travelling, working conventions. I did OLDE CITY, NEW BLOOD at the beginning of the month and it was super awesome. Mark it down and make your plans for next year. That convention ROCKED. I got to hang out with a ton of great authors, bloggers, and reader. Met a ton of folks I know from online and some folks I didn’t know at all before then.

Then I came home and the following weekend my gall bladder tried to kill me.

Honest Injun, it was the worst thing I have ever been through. I was in so much pain all I could do was moan and hold my midsection. It felt like I was being pummeled by some big redneck boys whose sister/cousin I had insulted. I threw up more than I could have ever imagined my stomach holding, and overall thought I was going to cash it in.  I was too sick to write, hell I was too sick to watch TV. So that was 4 days gone to shit without anything to show for it except almost 20 pounds lost. I have declared though, that if that happens again I will have that gall bladder yanked out.

Hell, I might even do it myself.

After recovering i did ANACHROCON the next weekend. It’s a good convention, steampunk as hell and that’s just fine. It’s not my gig, but I like it. I like folks in costume, especially when they go to the extreme and do it with the class that most of the attendees at ANACHROCON do. Hung out mostly on the Classic Horror track, which was run by my good friend Derek Tatum, and talked a lot of Lovecraft and Cthulhu. I made the statement that Cthulhu is the Fonz of elder gods and I believe it more and more.

This weekend is Con Nooga and I’ll only be there Sat, but it is an action packed Sat. I think I’m on 8 panels. With a two hour drive up and a two hour drive back i should be a tired puppy at the end.

Selections have been made for my anthology, THUNDER ON THE BATTLEFIELD, through Seventh Star Press. It’s now a two volume set and will be totally kick ass.

And I’m now posting monthly at MAGICAL WORDS, a really terrific writing website that is genre specific. I’ll be there Friday so stop on by!

Other than that everything is five by five and I’ll catch you on the flip side.