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Black January was released on Friday. Thanks to all who have picked up a copy, written a review, or helped spread the word on social media!

The question I’m getting most now that it’s out is: “Can I read Black January if I haven’t read Red Equinox first?”

Black January is the second book in the SPECTRA Files trilogy, featuring Becca Philips and other characters introduced in Red Equinox. If you’re just attracted to a book about a team of explorers investigating a house haunted by cosmic horrors, you can pick up Black January and it will deliver a story with a beginning, middle, and end while catching you up on all you need to know about the events of Red Equinox.

That said, if you’re interested in taking a longer journey through an urban fantasy trilogy based on the Cthulhu Mythos, you should probably start with Red EquinoxAs with any series, book 2 contains spoilers for book 1.

Indiebound  |  Barnes and Noble  |  Amazon

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My new novel, Black January, is now up for preorder from JournalStone. The second book in the SPECTRA Files trilogy, this one should also be pretty accessible for newcomers to my Lovecraftian apocalypse in progress. But if you haven’t picked up Red Equinox, why not take it to the beach this summer and catch up?

Speaking of the apocalypse, next Friday I’ll be hosting the Apocalyptic SF, Horror and Fantasy discussion at NECON in Rhode Island with guests of honor Joe Hill, Mark Morris, and other smart folks who like to ponder the end of all things. The con is sold out for full registration but single day walk-in passes will be available.

You can add Black January to your Goodreads list here, and I’ll post links to Amazon, Indiebound, and B&N as soon as we have them.

I started sketching ideas for this book about a year ago in my hotel room at NecronomiCon.  It feels like longer. It came fast in first draft and has been long in revisions, and it feels good to see it all dressed up and ready for readers in Chuck Killorin’s drop-dead gorgeous art.

 

Black January Cover Medium

WELCOME TO THE WADE HOUSE

WHERE THE DOORS OPEN YOU

Two years after the Starry Wisdom Church unleashed their dark gods in Boston, Becca Philips is trying to put the events of the Red Equinox behind her when Agent Brooks tracks her down in Brazil. Becca has been summoned back to Massachusetts by SPECTRA, the covert agency entrusted with keeping cosmic horrors at bay. Her special perception and skills are requested at the Wade House—a transfiguring mansion of portals to malevolent dimensions.

Becca would like to refuse, but Brooks believes her estranged father may be lost between worlds at the abandoned estate. As Becca struggles with grief and forgiveness, she joins a team of explorers uniquely suited to decode the secrets of the strange house in the black snow. But what secrets do her companions harbor? And who among them will take theirs to the grave?

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BJ Promo1

The next SPECTRA files novel is off to the publisher for edits and currently slated for an October release. Stay tuned…

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Becca photo of fractal tentacles
I’m trying to find my way into the next book, playing around with opening lines and paragraphs. Beginnings set the stage and influence everything that comes after because they set the tone for both reader and writer. Stephen King says opening lines are invitations. William Gibson compared them to handshakes or keys.They introduce us. They open the way.

And yet, sometimes, when writing the first draft, it’s more important to just kick in the door, any door, and get into the story. You can always figure out where the main entrance is once you’re inside. I did that with my latest novel. Scrapped the first chapter in draft two and found a new way in.

A handshake. A key. A fractal?

Let me suggest that the opening line, or paragraph of a book can be a kind of fractal. I don’t know if this would work for other writers, but it’s something I’ve noticed in my own work.

In Red Equinox my main character discovers fractal tentacles surfacing in the walls of abandoned buildings–images that are at first only visible in her infrared photography. It got me thinking about the nature of fractals and how (sort of like holograms) the part contains the whole. The smallest pattern at the tip of a fractal repeats and expands so that when we pan out and take in the whole, we see that same shape writ large.

Could the opening of a novel contain the fractal signature, the DNA if you will, of the whole story?

I think maybe I’ve intuitively done something like this three times now. Since I’m only really qualified to analyze my own work in this way, I hope you’ll indulge me a quick look back at those openings.

Billy Moon didn’t know exactly when he had sold his soul. There had been no pact penned in blood, no dusty crossroads. Maybe it happened that night on the bridge, the night he met Trevor Rail. Maybe his soul was tucked away in one of those paragraphs of legalese he had skimmed over hungrily in his mid-twenties—his eternal spirit leveraged against mechanical royalties and recoupable advances in a five-point font. I sold my soul, he thought, and it fit. Like a perfect chorus summing up the verses of his life, it rhymed with the rest of him.
The Devil of Echo Lake

Billy Moon, a troubled, confused, burned out rock star is searching his failing (maybe repressed) memories for his identity, and the conclusion he reaches in that first paragraph is the fractal tip of his story, the shape of his past, present, and future. He is a man fighting to reclaim his soul.

There were at least three good playgrounds within a short drive of
the Ocean Road apartment, but on the day Desmond Carmichael
lost his son for a terrifying ten minutes, he had chosen one farther
away, the one they called the Castle Playground. It wasn’t Lucas’s
favorite, but the days when the boy would argue for a favorite
anything were behind them by then. Desmond figured that when a
child loses his mother at the age of three, pretty much every other
preference takes a back seat. He knew that he wasn’t Lucas’s
favorite either.
Steel Breeze

In Steel Breeze Desmond, a grieving widower wracked with guilt and regret, is about to enter a living nightmare in which he races to save his son from a pair of serial killers. It will take a few chapters for his life to spin out of control, but his grief and fear of further loss are all there at the moment we meet him, a fractal fingerprint on his character with ripples flowing into both the future and the past.

Now we come to Becca Philips, the photographer at the center of Red Equinox.

Death has a way of calling us home, and when it does we put on
our best. Becca Philips hadn’t been to Arkham in years, hadn’t
worn a dress in almost as long, and now here she was, stepping
off the train and feeling out of place in both.
Red Equinox

I hope you might feel like you know her already after just two sentences. At least a little. She has left her home town but has been pulled back. She’s an escapee, but what was she running from? She’s a bit of a tomboy. Maybe she’s an outsider in more than just this situation. She’s uncomfortable but rising to the occasion.

And the story to come will continue to challenge Becca to “put on her best” in the face of death.

So there you have it: fractal paragraphs. Your mileage may vary.

* * *

Red Equinox is out now. You can read about the influences and writing process behind the book at Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds and John Scalzi’s The Big Idea.

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With just one week to go until Red Equinox drops, you can now read the first two chapters at Tor.com. Tor is my favorite hub of geek goodies, so I’m thrilled to get a ride on Stubby the rocket! I hope you’ll head over and give the story a chance with your Saturday morning coffee. And if it hooks you, why not pre-order the book at Amazon? Thanks for checking it out.

Red Equinox Excerpt Douglas Wynne at Tor.com

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Red Equinox by Douglas Wynne cover artMy third novel, Red Equinox, will be released by JournalStone on Friday, January 16th in trade paperback and a bunch of e-book formats. It’s about Becca Philips, an urban explorer and photographer who discovers malign forces seeping into our world from a parallel dimension in the flood-ravaged Boston of 2019.

Equal parts horror-thriller, urban fantasy, and sci-fi, the book riffs on the mythology of the late, great H.P. Lovecraft, but you don’t need to be familiar with his work to enjoy it. I set out to pay homage to his influence (while defying some Lovecraftian tropes), but my main goal was to tell a suspenseful story with characters I cared about.

I hope you might come to care about them too.

I’ll be doing a couple of signing events to celebrate the release: Jabberwocky Bookshop in Newburyport, MA on Friday 1/30 and Water Street Books in Exeter, NH on Saturday 1/31. Both kick off at 7PM.

I can’t wait to get out and talk about the story, read a creepy scene from it, and doodle some tentacles on title pages.

And if you need help getting off the fence and giving this one a try, here are a bunch of nice blurbs from writers and editors who were kind enough to preview it:

“Douglas Wynne has accomplished a rare feat in Red Equinox. He has written a thrilling action-adventure story while at the same time melding it with hints—and more than hints—of chilling Lovecraftian cosmicism. Vivid characters, a keen sense of place, and a cleverly executed plot contribute to making Red Equinox one of the more notable novels in the Lovecraftian tradition.” S. T. Joshi

“No Lovecraft fan—or horror fan for that matter—should miss this one! Philosophical and creepy, RED EQUINOX is a Mythos tale set in the real world. I enjoyed it immensely. Douglas Wynne is definitely a writer to watch.” Mike Davis, editor, The Lovecraft eZine

“RED EQUINOX is an enjoyable book touching on the unique legend of H. P. Lovecraft’s Nyarlathotep, that most mysterious of Outer Gods. Cleverly plotted, with engaging characters and wonderful Lovecraftian touches, the book reveals Douglas Wynne a true acolyte of Eldritch Horror!” W. H. Pugmire, author of The Strange Dark One

“In RED EQUINOX, Douglas Wynne has done what countless authors have tried—and most have failed—to do; he’s brought Lovecraft into the modern world. And he’s done it in such a plausible and unsettling way, you’ll wonder what lurks just beyond the understanding of man and you’ll fear the coming of darkness. A love letter to Lovecraft, no fan of the Mythos should let this one pass them by.” Brett J. Talley, author of That Which Should Not Be

“Douglas Wynne’s RED EQUINOX is a propulsive, edge-of-your-seat supernatural thriller that drop-kicks H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos into the 21st century. Wynne summons dark, ancient horrors into our hyperconnected, high-tech era with taut prose, captivating characters, and refreshing originality. The Great Old Ones will surely be pleased.”—Michael M. Hughes, author of The Blackwater Lights trilogy

Want to know more? Head over to JournalStone for the back cover synopsis.

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What a writer is writing about is seldom the main point. It’s what he’s doing with his left hand that really matters.

-Thomas Mann

 

I posted this quote on Facebook yesterday. Like any quote, it’s open to interpretation (hey, get your mind out of the gutter), but outside of any context, it might have befuddled a few people, and after mulling it over for a day, I think it’s worthy of a blog post.

 

To me this quote sums up the job of fiction. Non-fiction is all about what the writer is saying on the surface. But in fiction, good fiction anyway, we get subtext, suggestion and inference; an opportunity for things not literally stated by the author to form nonetheless in the reader’s mind. It’s a process of completing a circuit in the reader’s imagination by not saying all that we mean.

 

People who dismiss genre fiction think that Tolkien was just writing about elves, but readers who see The Lord of the Rings as literature know that he made some of the greatest statements of the 20th century about war and the nature of power, obsession, and addiction. Themes that are still relevant today precisely because they’re set in a mythic world apart from the particulars of our own. And that’s not the same thing as allegory. It’s subtler.

 

To take an example from the other end of the quality spectrum in genre fiction, Stephanie Meyer (who lacks subtlety in all other aspects of her writing) didn’t sell a bazillion books to teenaged girls because she was writing about vampires and werewolves. She had a runaway hit because those girls recognized a story about the animal and social tensions surrounding their virginity dressed up as a story about vampires.

 

The best stories are about more than what they appear to be about on the surface. Harry Potter isn’t just about racism, but it wouldn’t have the same resonance if it didn’t address the issue in a variety of subtle and not so subtle ways.

 

That’s why the old myths have endured. They seem to be about gods and monsters, but they’re really about what it means to be human. All good fiction can tap into that, but I would argue that genre fiction is especially well suited to the task.

 

Visual arts can also use the powers of suggestion and subtlety, but usually to a lesser extent. Is Breaking Bad so compelling because it’s about drugs? No, it’s about a million other things, some of them barely mentioned. It’s about marriage and mortality and subverted male empowerment and the economy and healthcare and lies, lies, lies. The story is compelling because it’s a tragic character study that forces us to infer Walter White’s shifting motives at any given time despite what he’s telling himself and the people around him on the surface. It’s the closest I’ve ever seen a TV series come to tapping into the powers of the novel. Vince Gilligan has a very adept left hand.

 

I think the most compelling TV encourages the audience to come to their own conclusions. It invites us into the process. True Detective comes to mind as a great recent example. But in fiction we are already engaging the reader in a process of filling in the details in her own mind. A book is a collaboration between writer and reader. The writer sketches lines and the reader embellishes that sketch with the details of her own experience. She even renders the tone of voice of each line of dialog in her head. And writing fails when the writer fails to make it easy for the reader to do this.

 

But a writer also fails when he makes it too easy for the reader to know what it all means. The right hand tells you what you need to know. The left hand knows what to leave out.

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