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



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