Earlier this week, I posted the cover art for my short story “Malichon Manor” on my Facebook page. It’s a classic haunted house story, and I’m targeting an October 1 release to coincide with Halloween season. I’ve already had a few folks ask me what the word ‘malichon’ means, and John—the main character—has the same question. He’s told it is “a word with no meaning, at least in this world”. However, those of you who have read Warrior of Light will probably recognize it quite readily. (The implications of this connection may, or may not, become important at a later date.…)
As I mentioned in a previous blog, though I am devoting the bulk of my time to writing the sequel to Warrior of Light, I wanted to ensure I generated at least some new content in 2017. After further thinking, and being a fan of Halloween, I ultimately settled on a story about a haunted house. Interestingly enough, I’ve never described myself a fan of “horror” fiction. That being noted, the line between the fantasy and horror genres is thin; both feature a conflict between good and evil, and both employ supernatural/fantastical elements. This distinction is even further blurred within the subgenre of urban fantasy, the most classic example of which is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. However, I’ve always felt that in fantasy, the heroes and their objectives drive the narrative, whereas in horror, the “evil” itself drives the narrative. For example, Jason Voorhees is the star of Friday the 13th, with the ill-fated protagonists merely serving as vehicles to propel Jason’s story forward. I don’t particularly enjoy that brand of story, and though a horror aficionado would no doubt tell me I am not doing justice to the genre, it’s how I feel.
All the above said, if I had to list a favorite writer, I would answer immediately and without hesitation: Stephen King. That’s because, similar to the distinction I noted in the preceding paragraph, King’s narratives are character-driven. Yes, many of his books involve horror—he’s the gold standard for the genre—but they are also rich in story and powerful in language. His novel IT provides a great example. IT does indeed feature a terrifying clown in the sewers (and is the only book to ever give me nightmares), but it also focuses on the magic of childhood, the power of friendship, and the challenges of growing up. At heart, IT is about a group of outcasts banding together to defeat an unimaginable evil, and how they must unite again when that same evil returns decades later. It’s an amazing novel, still resonating with me long after I turned the final page.
With “Malichon Manor”, then, my hope is that—while the house and its spectral denizens certainly have a part to play—the focus is ultimately on the characters and what they hope to achieve during the night they must spend there. It is a much darker story than Warrior, but I think it’s the right fit for the season, and I also think it’s an opportunity for me to grow as a writer. Shifting genres is not without pitfalls—publishing houses generally experience heartburn when their writers suggest it, in the same way executives might react if Coca-Cola’s managers decided to go into the sushi business—but it can also have its advantages. As a reader, I never read too many books of one kind; my favorite genre is fantasy, but I also read contemporary suspense, military fiction, and classic literature. At the end of the day, I appreciate a well-told story, no matter the form. In the same manner, I intend to diversify my own writing. I anticipate the bulk of my fiction will continue to be epic fantasy like Warrior of Light, but I will use short fiction like “Malichon Manor” as an opportunity to explore other mediums.
“Malichon Manor” is 15,000 words, so I will be releasing it exclusively on e-book, as its length doesn’t substantiate a printed manuscript. As I release more short fiction, I anticipate reaching a point where I can collect several titles into a print omnibus, but that project is a way out. I’ve finished two drafts so far, and have sent it off to some initial readers to gather feedback. After beta reader feedback, it will go into a more formal editing mode, with a line-and-content edit to be followed by a copy-edit. In the interim, it’s back to the grindstone to finish the sequel to Warrior of Light, where Tim Matthias and his companions are about to be tested like never before. Let’s hope they make it through okay.