Friday, January 19, 2018

GARDEN OF FIENDS is on the HWA Bram Stoker Preliminary Ballot for Superior Achievement in an Anthology



Thrilled to announce that GARDEN OF FIENDS: TALES OF ADDICTION HORROR is on the preliminary ballot for the Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Awards for Superior Achievement in the anthology category.

Who woulda thunkit after I perhaps stupidly shared my ambitions of seeing what other horror writers might come up with when tackling the topic of addiction. 

As a writer and recovering addict, this has been a very personal project of mine. The stories inside feature the insidious nature of addiction told with compassion yet searing honesty. Some of the most incredible names in horror fiction have tackled this modern day epidemic. 

The table of contents includes: Kealan Patrick Burke, Jessica McHugh, Max Booth III, Mark Matthews, John FD Taff, Glen Krisch, Johann Thorsson, and Jack Ketchum 

CLICK HERE to check out GARDEN OF FIENDS on Amazon



If you are a HWA voting member, please inquire within for your copy. Email to WickedRunPress@gmail.com







Monday, January 8, 2018

New Release: BODY OF CHRIST (A Novella)



BODY OF CHRIST 

BODY OF CHRIST is a new release that drops Monday, January 8th. It is a transgressive work about grief, loss, and two young people who rely on the church for guidance, and find it in the strangest of ways. In some ways, it might be considered sacrilege. In other ways, a testimony to the story of the resurrection. Read it and decide.




Here is the official blurb:

After his first Holy Communion, a boy secretly builds his own Jesus out of communion wafers and the flesh of his dead father.

On Halloween night, his Jesus shall rise.

After a tragic death, a girl tends to the Cemetery of the Innocents, a memorial to the holocaust of abortion and children killed before their time.

On Halloween night, the children shall live, and they need to be fed.

The Holy Spirit comes to life in this shocking, transgressive story of Christian Horror

__________________

Some reviews have already come in. Here's one:


"Mark’s writing, while fiction, is all too real. He takes real situations, real emotions, real tragedies, and builds amazing stories around them. Most authors try it the other way around - they start with the fantastical and try to build reality around it. This is why Mark’s stories hit home so hard.

Body of Christ is a weird, frightening, emotionally draining, horrific romp into the fearful minds of two children who witnessed the deaths of their parents. Faith watched them pull the plug on her mother, and Kegan watched his father commit suicide by police. In addition to those horrors, Faith has to go through her first menstruation with no help from her father, and Kegan is frightened by his zealous mother about his upcoming First Communion.

The way they both cope is something to behold. You’re left wondering, did it all happen? Was it just the fantasy of an imaginative child? Or did something else occur?

I’ve said it before, and it bears repeating - Give Mark a read, you’ll not only learn something, but you’ll be entertained as well; and don’t be surprised if you’re left wondering, “What the hell did I just read?” (But in a good way)"


Here's what reviewer Shane Keene had to say



"This remarkable little tale took me by surprise, I confess. I've not read Matthews work before and so went in with zero expectations, but even if they had been high expectations, they would have more than been met. Body of Christ is a quick, horrific little read, packed with emotion and all the pain that comes along with a child losing and longing for a dead parent.

I'll have a full review coming soon but wanted to leave something here to tell you that you really want to read this guy's work. Ketchum has great things to say about him and there's a damn good reason for that. Mark Matthews and Body of Christ are the real deal."


Check it out! Just $2.99 on Amazon

Friday, November 3, 2017

Step Inside the Garden of Fiends for .99 Cents


For the first time since the written word, GARDEN OF FIENDS: TALES OF ADDICTION HORROR is on a .99 Cent Kindle Countdown Deal. It's also a Bookbub deal of the day on November  4rth.

US click here:->  goo.gl/sHdkR1
UK click here-> goo.gl/UJMK78



"A brilliant and original concept, Garden of Fiends captures the struggles of addiction and the horrors they inflict on those affected by it. Yes, it is dark and visceral, but with moments of hope throughout that make this a memorable collection of stories." ~THE HORROR BOOKSHELF

"An unflinching and intense look at addiction and its consequences, from some of the best horror writers in the business." - CHAR'S HORROR CORNER

"An incredibly fascinating and at times grim read. These are dark tales set against a backdrop of fear, addiction and self-loathing where families are ripped apart and relationships are left in tatters."- ADRIAN SHOTBOLT, THE GRIM READER.

"Every offering drips with truth, blending tales of horror and addiction into an emotionally draining, yet essential experience." - BEN WALKER, UK HORROR SCENE

"Garden of fiends is a brutal and brilliant story collection giving expression to the horror of addiction. Some of the most talented and original voices in the business provide equal doses of compassion and grotesqueness. A traumatic read--and I mean that in the best possible way." -JON BASSOFF, author of THE INCURABLES and CORROSION, Winner of the 2013 DarkFuse Readers' Choice Award for Best Novel

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Copies of GARDEN OF FIENDS to HWA Members for Bram Stoker Consideration

Hi Folks,
I'm offering up copies of
GARDEN OF FIENDS: TALES OF ADDICTION HORROR
for Bram Stoker Consideration in the Anthology category.

The dark truths of addiction told in tales of horror.

Stories and novellas inside by Kealan Patrick Burke​, Max Booth III​, Jessica McHugh​, Glen Krisch​, John FD Taff, Johann Thorsson​, (me!), and Jack Ketchum​

"A brutal and brilliant story collection giving expression to the horror of addiction.  Some of the most talented and original voices in the business provide equal doses of compassion and grotesqueness. A traumatic read - and I mean that in the best possible way."
-Jon Bassoff​, Winner of the DarkFuse Readers' Choice Award for Best Novel

PDF/Mobi copies available, as well as audiobook vouchers and a limited number of paperbacks.

Message me at WickedRunPress@gmail.com


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

A LIFE OF DEATH, By Weston Kincade, the introduction

Weston Kincade edited my first horror novel, On the Lips of Children, and both of us were published by Books of the Dead Press. After Books of the Dead reorganized and released both of our titles, Weston re-released his A Life of Death trilogy. I was honored to have written the introduction for book one. Please go check out the book, and here's how it starts...


Our Lives of Death: An Introduction

We are all born fractured, crying, screaming, a bit bloody, and thrown into this world by no choice of our own. One could say it is our soul’s mission to fix these primal wounds through our travels, and to find some sort of wholeness and meaning, using our gifts as best we can. Instead of giving up when the sky grows dark, we gain strength through our burdens.

Such is the conflict in A Life of Death, where Kincade takes universal themes, adds some supernatural and horrific elements, and floats it down a deeply emotional current. This is fiction with young adult themes, but it cannot be stuck on the shelf of any one genre. Horror, suspense, YA, thriller. Whatever you call it, it’s damn interesting fiction.
A Life of Death on Amazon 



Alex is the main character, and he has lost his dad to a drunk driver. This primal wound of losing a parent is a common theme in literature (often times it is losing both parents, for “orphans” have ruled the literary world since the beginning of time). There’s something about the cursed start, the emptiness we feel made manifest in having that parent gone, that sets us up for a “life of death,” as if each life has been killed in its early stages. This fractured self is most pronounced during times of transition such as adolescence to adulthood. Not only is Alex the outcast teen, grieving his father, but he is also not safe within his own family after his mom marries a physically abusive step-dad.

The outcast trope is in full play.

A Life of Death takes these universal themes and makes them its own. Alex’s life has been defined by death, and this becomes his curse, but also his gift. Alex learns he can see into the afterworld; touching an object gives him visions, terrifying but illuminating, of how the object’s owner has died. Some mysteries are explained, and others are revealed, and this power can either terrify or empower him.

It is during these glimpses into the afterlife that the most stunning imagery happens in A Life of Death. It is here where you’ll feel the power of the book, and what makes the world Alex inhabits even more confusing. He becomes isolated further from his peers, but ultimately it is these very powers that can help heal the chunk that was taken out of his life when he lost his dad. Death no longer becomes the thing that took away his life, for he has become a part of death, a witness of it rather than its victim.

Without death, none of our lives would have meaning; they’d just be endless meanderings where no moment was more important than the next, for moments are infinite. Same as with loss, for to never lose would be to never have value. To probably misquote some Taoism, it is the empty space that gives the bowl its purpose, not the material of the bowl itself. Things are defined by their opposites; our lives are defined by death.

This is dark, indeed, but as a writer I find myself defending elements of horror and the supernatural more than I should, for it is my take that such things make fiction more real, rather than less. Horror is just magical realism, the truth of reality so intense it explodes out of its confines, and the messy truth is what you get.

How can you explain the impact that death has upon all of our lives without some elements of the supernatural? If you are to do the topic justice, there has to be some horror involved. Candles shine brightest in the pitch-black dark, cliché to say, but Alex’s life needs to be surrounded by darkness for him to shine. The supernatural elements, the gifts, are simply an extension of the character's experience; a metaphor for their passage. It happened with Stephen King's Carrie, going through a similar transition with supernatural powers, and it happened for four years of high school with Harry Potter, and it is happening for the young adult Alex in A Life of Death.

Finally, the role of story-telling itself as a power to heal and transform is on full display here. It is through stories that we learn about ourselves, and A Life of Death is a story within a story. Alex is an older man, telling the tale to his own child while at his desk in the precinct, speaking to his son, Jamie. His child will certainly have his own cross to bear, with his own primal wounds to heal with his own unique gifts. A father passes his legacy on to his child, the ending becomes a new beginning. The words of a story, like death, give life its meaning.

And this book you are about to read has a story worth telling.


-Mark Matthews



Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A Harrowing Story of Addiction & Pestilence, by Edmund Kelly

The following is another guest post by a writer whose life has been touched  by addiction.  This one truly made my heart ache and marvel where Ed finds himself today.  Please give it a read:

Hi, my name is Ed and I’m an alcoholic. My story is a dark one. It’s not something I ever spoke about until recently. I have a lot of anger and hate buried deep inside which led me to become an alcoholic.
Here is my story:

I grew up poor in a small-town south of Boston. On the outside, we seemed your typical American family but on the inside, we were far from it. For the most part, my father was in and out of the house. My mother would only put up with his shit for so long before kicking him out again. I wasn’t privy to their conversations but I assume she would let him back in because he promised to change. I think she did it because she needed the money for food and bills. We’d go days living off peanut butter and jelly (I ate so much of it as a kid I refuse to eat it as an adult). Going out to dinner, which hardly ever occurred, amounted to us walking to McDonalds. It wasn’t easy for my mom having two mouths to feed and not having a car. She had to constantly ask for rides to work and the grocery store. Just last year I found out that the car she finally did get had been given to her by the owner of the company she worked for when he learned of her situation. 

Soon my father would be back to his old ways or she would catch him cheating again and he’d be out. I love my mom and she did the best she could for us. I will never blame her for what I endured at that man’s hands for she endured it too.

My father was a big man. He was 6’4” and 300lbs. He was an evil man and I lived in constant fear of him. He was both verbally and physically abusive and some of the abuse could be classified as torture. For no apparent reason he would physically torture my sister and I. One minute we’d be walking down the hall or sitting in a chair and he’d come up behind us and clamp his baseball gloved sized hands over our mouth and nose. He’d pull us tight into his body or the back of the chair so we couldn’t struggle free. I still remember the grimy taste of his fingers as I tried to bite my way free. He would hold us there until we became weak and almost passed out. He would drop us to the floor and step over us as we lay there gasping for air. I’d awake in the middle of the night to him smothering me with a pillow. I’d flail and try to turn my head, but again I was too weak to match his strength. He used to pick me up by my feet and dangle me there until the blood rushed to my head and my face turned purple. We had a wood burning stove that we used for heat in the winter and he’d have me chop and stack firewood until 10:00pm or 11:00pm at night. He would come into my room and if my house keys were not on my nightstand next to my bed he would ground me to my bed for a month. He’d yell that he’d teach me to never lose my keys again. This stemmed from the second grade when I accidentally threw my keys out with my brown paper lunch bag (yup, peanut butter and jelly). If I got in trouble at school or brought home a poor grade I would get the belt and be forced to sit on my bed for weeks at a time as punishment. I could only leave my bed to go to the bathroom, eat and to school. 

The worst for me though was when he would borrow a friend’s boat. We would go so far out that we couldn’t see land. Once far enough out he’d grab me and throw me overboard. He would then move the boat and tell me to swim before the sharks got me. As I’d get close to the boat he’d move it further away. This would go on until I became exhausted. He eventually would pull me back into the boat. The fear of being left behind still brings a lump to my throat. I still remember the waves crashing over my face and watching the boat move further and further away. Such a lonely feeling. Also, the fear of being eaten by a shark has stuck with me all these years and I still don’t go in the ocean. I even pull my feet up when watching TV and a shark comes on.

My sister, who is five years older, was stronger than me. She tried to runaway multiply times. Once she made it to Louisiana but my father found out where she was and went and brought her home. She reported him to her school and they notified someone who came to the house. I remember my father being furious and telling me not to say anything. Out of fear I lied to the people when they came and questioned me. Looking back, I wish I told the truth. 

When all of those horrible things were happening to me I just pushed it all down. I pushed and pushed and buried it deep. I never spoke much about what had happened to me. I kept it inside. It burned deep within me and I used it to push myself. I lived in constant fear of that man. I hated him and I dreamt daily about killing him, but I was to small and weak to do anything. The thought of watching him die kept me warm. 

Looking back, I remember riding the school bus and looking in other people’s windows of their houses as we drove by. I would imagine what it was like living in that house with different people. I’d imagine a fridge stocked full of food. I didn’t know if there was a pool out back but I’d imagine there was. I’d imagine living a normal life. I would sit on our couch and watch out the window as cars passed by and wonder where they were going. I’d imagine I was with them going on some journey to some place exciting. I’d imagine being anywhere to get away from where I was. I’ve always had an active imagination and my father would ask me what I was thinking about and I’d tell him. He would tell me that it was dumb or that I was stupid. I always wanted to do something with my imagination. I wanted to write books. 

Finally, after years of abuse and adultery my mother left my father for good and divorced him. Six years later he passed away. 

In my late teenage years, I found booze. I instantly fell in love. It was a way to shut my brain off. I was able to forget the horrible things that happened and I was finally able to sleep. Alcohol became my new best friend. 

I had always been labeled a good guy who did the right thing. But when I drank an evil came out of me. Everything I pushed down slowly started rising to the surface. The more I drank the more hatred was released. I had vowed to never be like my father but when I drank I became verbally abusive like him

I owe my wife for saving me. She put up with all my shit and stayed by my side. She was ready to leave if I didn’t get help. I had tried my hand at sobriety before and I went to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) but I always found myself back to my worst best friend, the bottle. My wife had finally had enough and told me if I didn’t get help she and my daughter were gone. She didn’t want to live like that nor did she want our daughter exposed to it either. For the record, I never got violent. As my wife always said, I’d get “diarrhea of the mouth”. Whatever came out was usually hateful and hurtful. All that hatred I had suppressed would surface. I told her I would get help for her and my daughter. She told me not to bother unless I was doing it for myself. I let that settle in.

Everywhere I went there was a problem. I finally accepted that I was the problem and I needed to deal with it.

I made a few phone calls and after a short runaround I found a local treatment center. I enrolled into the Gosnold Addiction Treatment Center. I decided to go all in. I had a lengthy conversation with myself and committed to getting better for me. Once I was better, things would get better with everyone else. The next day I started the Gosnold Structured Outpatient Addiction Program (S.O.A.P.). It was through their training that I found ways to deal with my drinking and not just deal with it but to recognize triggers. When I had tried to blindly get sober it didn’t work. But now I had been provided the tools to not only get sober but stay sober. I also knew I needed counseling to deal with my past and they offered that too. Their counselors are trained in dealing with addicts, which is a plus, as they continue to help keep you sober while dealing with the underlying problem. I can’t say enough about the staff for all the things they did for me, most importantly for giving me my life back.

When I finally got sober my wife suggested I finally write that book I was always talking about. I told her my ideas and she encouraged me. I wasn’t used to that. I finally decided to go for it. I sat down and started to write the book I always wanted to write. I was raised Catholic and I've always been fascinated by stories of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and I knew someday I wanted to write a series about them. Looking back, I think I enjoyed those stories so much because the people in them were so much worse off than me. I could relate to living in Hell.

I sat down and started writing but it felt like I was missing something. I was trying to tell this story and using my story as the main character but again I was lying to myself. I had this drunk angry character but with no reason to be angry. I decided I would tell my story, my childhood and show why this character was so angry. So, I did and chapter 3 is my life in a nutshell. Even with telling my story it still felt like I was missing something.

Then one day sitting in my Sunday morning AA meeting it hit me. What if every character has some form of addiction to overcome as they try and survive the end of the world. At Gosnold and in the halls of AA I heard all about finding a higher power. For some it's God and for others it's whatever they deem important. For me, this is going to be one of my toughest struggles other than overcoming my addiction.

Now comes the tricky part. Finding a higher power. I was raised Catholic and I grew up believing in God. I started questioning my faith early on when I asked God for help dealing with my father and those prayers went unanswered. Later on in life I really started to question my faith when I started working as an E.M.T. in Boston. It was on the city streets that I saw the evils of the world perpetrated by people unto others. More times than not, drugs and alcohol were usually involved

For me, faith and trust are very similar. The one problem with both is that you are required to believe. Once that belief is gone, it is very hard to get it back.

So, I now had my story and the wheels in my head started spinning. I asked myself, since the main character is based off myself, what if the main character had lost his faith in God as well? Then I asked myself what if he was stuck with a character who had just found God? I quickly began writing. Trying to keep up with my own thoughts was tough. I couldn’t type fast enough. Character after character popped out at me. I found myself writing on everything. Return envelopes meant for bills, napkins, Post-its, birthday cards and basically anything that had an available space to write. The story poured out and within three months I finished the first draft.

I looked into publishing and self-publishing seemed the best for me. I jumped in with both feet and learned everything I could about the industry. Soon I had an editor and went through that whole process. Then I finally released my book first book, Addiction & Pestilence, in November of 2016.

The title Addiction & Pestilence is a literal title as each character has some form of addiction they must try and overcome while trying to survive the wrath of the first Horseman, who has brought a great pestilence (plague).
ADDICTION & PESTILENCE - $2.99 on Amazon

Addiction & Pestilence is the first book in my Slaying Dragons: A Journey Through Hell series. The term ‘Slaying Dragons’ has two meanings. In today’s time, it means to overcome an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol. It also means to defeat evil/devil which goes back to the beginning of the Catholic Church. Since the book deals with addiction and The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Bible – Book of Revelation) the title only seemed fitting.

I basically have the whole series laid out in my head but I’m not sure how certain things will go for certain characters. I’m hoping through this journey into my life, this journey through Hell, that I can find what I’m looking for through writing. I guess writing is my way of trying to find my place in the world. A way to have peace in my own head.

I'm not sure what I'll find. I do know that I have to take this trip into the unknown to rediscover myself, to heal myself, to find myself. I also know that I started at rock bottom, so the only way left is up. I hope others will join me as I venture down this dark road in search of the light at the end of the tunnel.

-Ed

Remember, if you or a loved one have a problem with drugs or alcohol, there is no shame in asking for help. Addiction is a tough and lonely road, but it doesn’t have to be.

If you need help, please reach out.
National Helpline: SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services) 1-800-662-4357
To find an Alcoholics Anonymous near you please check: aa.org

Here's where you can find more about Ed and his work
Facebook: www.facebook.com/edmundkellyslayingdragons
Email: lovetowrite@edmundkelly.com



Thursday, August 10, 2017

THE TIGER IN THE LIFEBOAT, by Christa Carmen



I put out a call for guest blog posts, particularly from writers who may have been touched by addiction. Huge thanks to writer Christa Carmen who responded by sticking a knife in her heart and spilling it all over the page. Christa has stories splattered about the book world, and one has landed in Year's Best Hardcore Horror, Volume 2. She's been a tireless advocate for addiction awareness and treatment, and has written a truly touching and personal blog post. Check it out:


You’ll probably agree with me when I say that the word ‘epic’ is an overused one. ‘That was an epic party last night, man.’ ‘The cupcakes Betsie made for Jess’s party were epic!’ ‘Whoa, Claire just delivered the most epic of epic burns!’ Despite the propensity for ‘epic’ to be thrown around like a Frisbee at a frat house, I’ve never shied from attributing the term to certain works of fiction, or from feeling more connected to those works because of it.


When I was in middle school, I was always primed for the possibility of finding the next epic read. Stories and scenes that topped this list were the shipwreck at the start of Black Beauty, Where the Red Fern Grows, with its fulfillment of the heartbreaking but awe-inspiring Native American legend, any of the adventures of Pippi Longstocking, and pretty much all of Roald Dahl’s books, for their championing of the young protagonists over the villainous, ‘I’m right, you’re wrong, I’m big, your small’-spouting adults. Despite my love of reading, it never occurred to me to want to be a writer myself, and I continued on this blissful path of consuming books and reveling in epic stories until right around the time when eighth grade ended, and I sensed the move to high school looming on the horizon.


My first experience with alcohol gave new meaning to the word epic. Though it didn’t happen overnight, I began to alter my identity from ‘good student’ and ‘bookworm’ to include descriptors like ‘drinker’ and ‘party girl.’ I knew nothing of addiction, that, like a cucumber that becomes a pickle and can never go back to being a cucumber again, once the unsuspecting person crosses that line to becoming an alcoholic or drug addict, they can never go back to being a “normal” person again. Without even realizing I was addicted, addiction consumed my adolescence and early twenties until, while pursuing a Master’s Degree for Mental Health Counseling and undertaking an internship at a Massachusetts detox center, it occurred to me that there was another, better way of life. That nonstop drinking wasn’t as epic as I’d anticipated.

Getting sober is a uniquely terrifying experience; your personality and sense of humor, your hobbies, your purpose, and your reason for living are ripped away like a tablecloth from under a deceptively lavish dining room table. Only in this trick, the one doing the tablecloth pulling is exceedingly unskilled, a magic school dropout who brings the crystal water glasses, sterling flatware, and ceramic vases down with the linen. About six months after I stopped drinking, and the beast in my head that roared for more had quieted, I was able to hear something else. The voice was shaky and uncertain, but its message was clear enough: “Write something. Write anything. Take your mind off things. Tell a story.”


So I did. Or, I tried, anyway. Those attempts at short stories, the half-formed ideas for novels, were coming from a place too raw to produce anything more than narcissistic, woe-is-me drivel. Writing while newly sober is like going through your first break-up all over again; my work read like the screenplay for a particularly self-indulgent Lifetime movie, one that missed the mark on edgy by a margin one part Christina Ricci-as-Lizzie Borden and two parts teen pregnancy pact. My brain was too preoccupied with healing to connect the dots between the things I loved to read and what I was trying to write. That I struggled to make that connection, and subsequently abandoned the writing in the same way I had abandoned the counseling sessions and AA meetings, the sober friends and the commitment to self-care, is unfortunate. But that these abandonments led to the end of my sobriety is far from surprising. And so three years after I had ceased to be defined by drinking and using, I gave up on the search to be defined by anything else, and slipped back into the madness.


The disease of alcoholism and drug addiction is a progressive one; even in sobriety, it courses along beneath the surface, like a viscous, black river, ready to surge up and pull you back under. The search for a new epic drunk or high had begun, and being given a script for Vicodin by a well-meaning but clueless doctor did little to help matters. Relapsing after being sober for any significant period of time is like crossing into the dark part of a fairy tale, into the shadowy woods where witches in huts, brutal huntsmen, and evil fairies looking to strike dubious bargains lurk behind every copse of trees. You can see the castle off in the distance, and you know in your bones that you used to live there, used to be happily-ever-after, but you cannot for the life of you remember the way back.


And in my particular tale, I wasn’t meant to find the way out on my own. I required a veritable army of assistance, detox and rehab and outpatient therapy and medication-assisted treatment and oodles of support from family and friends. As if my fairy godmother and a helpful gang of woodland creatures come to warn me of my impending fate, should I not buckle down and get my shit together.


When I checked into my twelfth treatment center in four months, I had with me three things: a fair amount of sweatshirts (to stave off the chills), a small amount of hope, and a large amount of books. Books were the one constant at every one of the facilities I entered over those tumultuous four months. I read Anthony Kiedis’ Scar Tissue and Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan. I read And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, and books by authors in recovery: Caroline Knapp and Augusten Burroughs and Nic Sheff.


And then I picked up Life of Pi, by Yann Martel. A hundred or so pages in, the realization that I was in the midst of an epic story hit me. From a purely narrative standpoint, the book is about a young Indian boy crossing the Pacific Ocean in a lifeboat with only a Bengal tiger for company. Thematically, it’s so much more than that. It’s about trying to survive against all odds, about finding meaning through uncertainty, and that if all of life is a story, why not choose yours? It struck me, then. Life of Pi was a perfect metaphor for addiction: navigating life while sharing space with an apex predator, where the only way to survive is to learn to live with the beast, to come to an understanding that allows the two of you to co-exist.

Two things occurred as a result of this realization, this acknowledgement that addiction was a part of me, as inherent to my being as my height or eye color, and would require constant vigilance to be maintained. First, the tiger’s roar began to subside, no longer menacing my every waking breath. And second, I came to an understanding that the stories I considered epic, the ones I’d grown up reading and longed to write? Those stories were attainable by listening to the voice that spoke in the wake of the tiger’s growl. Being addicted to opiates stripped me of almost everything, but I’ve chosen a new story. By sitting patiently with myself, with no expectations and no reservations, that was when the writing came pouring out like sand through a sieve.


Writing is my addiction now, but it’s more than that. It’s become the lifeboat itself, the buoy I grab for when life storms around me or my muscles grow weary from rowing. I get more enjoyment from coming up with a story idea or completing a new chapter than I ever did from a drink or a drug. Sometimes the tiger bellows and sharpens its nails on the wooden slats, growing strong as he paces in the sun and salt air. But he has no more real power over me. Maybe someday, if he’s lucky, I’ll tell tales of the time before he was confined to his side of the lifeboat. It’s the best he can hope for.


And I’m telling you, it would be one epic read.




Christa has a bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania in English and psychology and a master's degree from Boston College in counseling psychology, and she is currently pursuing a master's in creative writing & literature from Harvard Extension School. Christa works for Pfizer in clinical trial packaging, and at a local hospital as a mental health clinician. When she's not writing, she is volunteering with one of several organizations that aim to maximize public awareness and seek solutions to the ever-growing opioid crisis in southern RI and southeastern CT. Christa has work forthcoming from Unnerving Magazine, Third Flatiron Publishing, Tales to Terrify, and Alban Lake Publishing, and you can visit her at her website at www.christacarmen.com.

GARDEN OF FIENDS is on the HWA Bram Stoker Preliminary Ballot for Superior Achievement in an Anthology

​ Thrilled to announce that  GARDEN OF FIENDS: TALES OF ADDICTION HORROR  is on the preliminary ballot for the Horror Writers Associa...