That Which Grows Wild
by Eric J. Guignard Genre: Dark Fantasy, Short Stories
That Which Grows Wild collects sixteen dark and masterful short stories by award-winning author Eric J. Guignard. Equal parts whimsy and weird, horror and heartbreak, this debut collection traverses the darker side of the fantastic through vibrant and harrowing tales that depict monsters and regrets, hope and atonement, and the oddly changing reflection that turns back at you in the mirror.
Discover why Eric J. Guignard has earned praise from masters of the craft such as Ramsey Campbell (“Guignard gives voice to paranoid vision that’s all too believable.”), Rick Hautala (“No other young horror author is better, I think, than Eric J. Guignard.”), and Nancy Holder ( “The defining new voice of horror has arrived, and I stand in awe.”)
• “A Case Study in Natural Selection and How It Applies to Love” - a teen experiences romance, while the world slowly dies from rising temperatures and increasing cases of spontaneous combustion.
• “Dreams of a Little Suicide” - a down-on-his-luck actor unexpectedly finds his dreams and love in Hollywood playing a munchkin during filming of The Wizard of Oz, but soon those dreams begin to darken.
• “The Inveterate Establishment of Daddano & Co.” - an aged undertaker tells the true story behind the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre, and of the grime that accumulates beneath our floors.
• “A Journey of Great Waves” - a Japanese girl encounters, years later, the ocean-borne debris of her tsunami-ravaged homeland, and the ghosts that come with it.
• “The House of the Rising Sun, Forever” - a tragic voice gives dire warning against the cycle of opium addiction from which, even after death, there is no escape.
• “Last Days of the Gunslinger, John Amos” - a gunfighter keeps a decimated town’s surviving children safe on a mountaintop from the incursion of ferocious creatures… until a flash flood strikes.
Explore within, and discover a wild range upon which grows the dark, the strange, and the profound.
LAST NIGHT, THE MOON TURNED FULL.
Last night, the world stopped turning.
Last night, the cosmos froze, like the slow-moving cogs of an ancient clock that finally grind down. Perhaps the great horologist of the universe simply forgot to rewind the mechanism of its gears. Perhaps he will appear at any moment to lift the stop lever and turn back its counter wheel. Perhaps he has decided the clock is broken and not worth his patience to tinker with any longer.
The earth hangs motionless now, peering to the sun from one face which, presumably, must begin to burn. Is the other side of the planet in flames or is it simply cooking like a slow-roast oven? I cower in North Vancouver, across the Burrard Inlet and, here, it is only night. My own watch has outlasted the mechanism of the universe and ticks away, telling me it’s three in the afternoon. The sky shows otherwise, black and interrupted by a soft moon which rests high above like a pool of cream.
The temperature had fortunately been warm, golden months of Canadian summer that were just beginning to fade into autumn’s auburn embrace. But I feel it cooling already. The red mercury on my thermometer outdoors drops steadily—forty-eight degrees and slowly sinking. The electricity is still on to generate heat but, once that goes out, there will remain nothing to warm this part of land relegated to nocturnal shadows. Lest that great horologist return, I can only image the arctic wasteland all of
Vancouver will soon become.
If the sinking cold were not grim enough, the howl of werewolves chills me even more.
It’s true they exist, but they’ve been of little consequence. One night a month, they transformed and ran wild through the piney wilderness above Lion’s Bay. Their victims were homeless vagrants found sleeping in ravines or drunken hunters, piss-proud they killed a rabbit with a shotgun. Poetic justice, if you ask me, and their deaths unmourned. We all knew of the creatures and simply stayed home those nights with doors locked and shutters bolted.
The werewolves were people of the town, members of families with long-standing roots to the indigenous men and women who first settled this country. When the time of month came, they did
their business elsewhere, and we let them be.
Now, however, the moon does not fall. It no longer cycles the earth, while the earth no longer cycles the sun. That beguiling orb in the sky has petrified and casts its strange call permanently over mortals who would transform into howling beasts: those mortals who will never be mortal again. As the cosmos are stuck in their current alignment, so too are the creatures stuck in their transformation. The moon may stay full on this part of land for the remainder of eternity, and the wolf-men will run wild.
LAST WEEK, the moon turned full.
Last week, the world stopped turning.
Last week, time fell meaningless as calculations based on the rotation of the planet ceased. My watch ticks onward, the quartz crystal in its center vibrating at a steady frequency to tell me the hours, the days that have passed. It matters not for, outside, it is still midnight . . . always midnight.
I look out the window and see the dark ocean far away, its surface illuminated by the moon’s reflection. Burrard Inlet is motionless, flat as a sheet of glass. There are no tides to pull the waves in or out, motions I once let myself be hypnotized by, dreaming upon their quiet, steady roar. Little moves outside, except for glimpses of fleeting shadows that dart across the hills—shadows that quickly melt into darkness and, once they are gone, cause me to wonder if they were ever there to begin with.
The werewolves have grown bold. In the past they relegated themselves to the wilderness, but now they roam the city. Their number is multiplying. I hear howling often, and screams too, but can never tell where the sound comes from as it echoes in the cold, still night air.
I have gone outside my house only twice since the world stopped moving.
Eric J. Guignard is a writer and editor of dark and speculative fiction, operating from the shadowy outskirts of Los Angeles. He's won the Bram Stoker Award, been a finalist for the International Thriller Writers Award, and a multi-nominee of the Pushcart Prize. His stories and non-fiction have appeared in over one hundred genre and literary publications such as "Nightmare Magazine," "Black Static," "Shock Totem," "Buzzy Magazine," and "Dark Discoveries Magazine." Outside the glamorous and jet-setting world of indie fiction, Eric's a technical writer and college professor, and he stumbles home each day to a wife, children, cats, and a terrarium filled with mischievous beetles.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a writer and editor of dark and speculative fiction, operating from the shadowy outskirts of Los Angeles, where I also run the small press, Dark Moon Books. By day job, I’m a technical writer and college professor, and before that I worked in mortgage banking. I’m married, with a young son and daughter. Plus I’ve a dog, cats, desert tortoise, and a terrarium filled with mischievous beetles. I’ve survived 42 years on this Earth, although I feel half that age mentally. I’ve travelled quite a bit, but I’ve lived in the same 25-mile radius in Southern California my entire life. I’m a pretty normal suburban White dude (third-generation Swiss-American), mostly passive, mostly introverted, pretty easy-going. I can jump rope all day long. I founded a hackysack club, that’s long gone under. My wife and I grew up together. I feel more comfortable in a dive bar than a fancy club. Outside other life responsibilities, I enjoy hiking and I study entomology (insects) and genealogy (family history); I woodwork in my garage; model miniatures; and read, read, read!
What was the inspiration for this collection?
The book is a collection (my first!) of previously published works, the stories having first appeared in various anthologies, magazines, etc. Each story in itself had its own inspiration or aim, so the collection is more about which stories would work well together in a grouping. I worked with editor Norman Prentiss at Cemetery Dance to select ones that showed a range, but at the same time weren’t too far “out of the box”. Originally I had some other choices that were more “weird” or satire or dark, and Norm suggested switching out those to ones a bit more in the same mood, so voilà, the finished product, which I’m happy with!
Story ideas and inspirations come, literally and figuratively, from everywhere: Dreams (both night and day), global news and current affairs, conversations with people, personal observations of the world, and playing the “What If?” game.
General inspirations for my creative works also stem from The Twilight Zone television show, comic books, and authors such as Cormac McCarthy, George Orwell, Dan Simmons, Seanan McGuire, Joe R. Lansdale, Neil Gaiman, and many, many others.
What are you working on and what can we expect from you in the future?
My most recent writing work is my debut collection, That Which Grows Wild: 16 Tales of Dark Fiction (Cemetery Dance Publications; July, 2018)
Quick synopsis: Equal parts of whimsy and weird, horror and heartbreak, That Which Grows Wild, by award-winning author Eric J. Guignard, collects sixteen short stories that traverses the darker side of the fantastic.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing fiction driven by the goal of publication since February, 2011. However, I’ve been writing and drawing stories ever since I was a child. I just did it then for my own interest, or for friends. I stopped in college, in order to pursue business and serious-minded life necessities... which, of course, I now regret. I don’t regret the pursuit of those things, but rather having given up writing for so many years. I only jumped into as a potential career after the realization struck me that I was missing out on something I was passionate about!
Advice you would give new authors?
Be confident to fail. Read broadly. Experiment. What I tell others, and what I repeat to myself like a mantra, is simply: “Keep writing, and remember that every rejection is an opportunity for improvement!”
You’re also an editor. What three tips would you give to a writer who is looking for a publisher for their stories?
1. Read authors you admire, and who you wish your books would be placed alongside on a bestseller list. Read authors who are progressive and experimental. Read authors of diverse voice. Read authors from bygone eras as well as the newest up-and-comers. Just read, and daily, at least 30 minutes.
2. Be a slush reader for a few months, meaning a “first reader” (generally unpaid volunteer) for a publication. By reading submissions (most that will be rejected), you’ll see (a) what everyone else is doing and flooding the market with (and thus you can set yourself to be different), and (b) flaws in others’ writings that by their aggregate you’ll be able to recognize in yourself (and can rectify).
3. Everyone gets rejected. Everyone, and more often than they’re accepted. Remember that every rejection is an opportunity for improvement!
Which do you prefer more, Editing or Writing?
I’m gonna take the middle road on that answer, as both editing and writing provide me great satisfaction, just in different ways. I really look at them both as completely different processes, like asking if I prefer baseball over the color green. I find editing is easier for me than writing. Writing is emotionally exhausting, whereas editing I can do all day long. And I’m always thrilled with the chance to connect and work with other writers while editing. But I love so much to type “The End” at the end of a writing piece—it’s a wonderful, fulfilling sense. Both are different journeys to a creative destination.
What new and upcoming authors do you think we should take notice of?
Thersa Matsuura, David Tallerman, Ray Cluley, Lisa Morton, Joanna Parypinski; Helen Marshall; Nadia Bulkin; Grady Hendrix… and so many more.
How would you describe your writing style?
I don’t know if others would agree, but I like to say that my style is literary dark fiction, which is emotionally resonant, thoughtful, weird, and compelling.
Writing is not a static process. How have you developed as a writer over the years?
I feel my work has evolved over the years in terms of sophistication and in message, in depth and in resonance, and for attempting “new” things, in new settings, and with new voices. At least I hope I’ve developed in such ways. I leave it to others to judge accordingly.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
I rely on a thesaurus for word variability. Other than that, my only must-have is a computer and a place/time for uninterrupted working.
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
I just finished SLADE HOUSE by David Mitchell and LIVE BY NIGHT by Dennis Lehane. Both of those novels were simply magnificent, each in different ways: one by the story structure, supernatural dread, and slow development (Slade House), and the other by the epic criminal story line of a young protagonist and the depth of characters and situations that he is surrounded by (Live by Night).
Unfortunately, disappointing books are more and more common, but I feel that is a natural effect of being a broad reader. When you’ve met similar characters, watched similar transformations, seen similar plot “twists,” a new work can feel stale or hackneyed, whereas if I were to have read it at an earlier point in my life, I’m sure it would have felt much more original and/or compelling.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
No, but I’ve always wanted to be a creative professional, whether that was involved in creating art, design, or writing. I’ve been driven to create all my life. If I wasn’t writing, I’d be drawing, woodworking, painting, modeling, or any number of other things. The same part that gets me up in the morning is thinking about what I’m going to make next, even if it’s just a design doodle. I happen to enjoy writing most right now, and my preference is toward dark matter, being monsters and thrilling adventures, things that excite, which I’ve also been drawn to all my life. Creating is my catharsis, my escape, and my satisfaction all at once
What are the biggest mistakes new writers make?
False expectations of rapid success and profitability. For 99% of writers, there is neither… but that is offset by intrinsic satisfaction and the joy of releasing a finalized creative product that you have devised.
What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened to you?
I can’t really say I’ve experienced any dire, Scream-Queen moments of terror. The scariest memories are mostly just childhood fears, recurring nightmares and the such (don’t ever watch the Headless Horseman episode from Scooby-Doo!).
One time I woke up alone with a mild concussion and temporary amnesia on a beach. That felt more surreal than scary though… I lay there looking up at the moon wondering who and where I was. Very existential in retrospect.
Once I was mountain biking high up in the San Gabriel Mountains and slipped off a narrow cliff… I don’t know how high it was, but I couldn’t see bottom. I somehow reached out and caught the lip of the precipice just as I was falling over, and managed to claw my way back up. Though more thrills than fears in that case!
Otherwise, I think the scariest things in life for me are more along the lines of emotional fears, like doubts, anxiety, which are worse than any “frightening” experience, as they linger with you for long, long stretches of time, and feel quite inescapable.
Do you outline before you write or do you write as you go? Do you have any writing rituals you practice?
I always begin just by “writing as I go,” but if the story becomes complicated or I get burned out, or stuck, then I turn to outlining to figure the proper direction. No other rituals, but that I write when I can! I try to write in the morning after I wake up, the earlier the better. I also, oddly, have a time of greatest focus/ productivity in late afternoon. Our bodies cycle to rhythmic clocks and mine is set to pound out work at about 4:00 p.m. Of course all that also depends on other work, family, and life obligations. I write technical documentation for my day job, and also teach as adjunct U.C. faculty, and have two small children to raise, so it’s easy to let writing take a back seat to everything else, though I force myself to write something creative every single day, even if it’s only fifty words or so.
Follow the tour HERE for exclusive excerpts, guest posts and a giveaway!