Welcome to a Thursday edition of the Backlist Bash featuring Selah Janel. She’s with me today to tell you about Mooner, an interesting piece of speculative goodness involving vampires. Oh, and lumberjacks.
SHR: What makes this particular book your favorite?
SJ: I love horror, for one. I love that creepy, creature in the woods-style story, so this was a lot of fun for me to write. I also really love American history, especially the eras that tend to get overlooked. I love pioneer history, so delving into the lumberjack way of life was really interesting. There was a lot to work with. I knew I was on the right track when I discovered that they actually had a word in their lingo for a weird, legendary creature that lived in the woods; that’s where the title Mooner comes from.
Lumberjacks lived such a hard life, and their vocabulary was so rough and musical, that I just found a lot to work with. It was a vibrant playground for a writer, especially when I added in the vampire character. I also really like the idea of exploring relationships. In this case, everyone seems to have an idea of what’s best for Bill, but even those with good intentions have dark and sundry methods. I love exploring motivation and emotion like that.
SHR: Tell us a little about what you went through to get it published.
SJ: I had originally submitted it to a handful of alternate history places, who weren’t too keen on something this gory or dark. I really liked the piece, so I figured other people would, but it wasn’t until a friend put me on the trail of No Boundaries that I really believed that other people were interested.
SHR: On writing in general: What’s the hardest part for you? Why?
SJ: The pacing. It takes me a while to figure out how long a piece should be, or what exactly to show and what to tell. It’s why I prefer to have a loose plot but I don’t latch on until I have a really defined character. That character helps me get an “in” to the plot, a little window where I can more easily see how things should work. Then it’s just getting the words out and editing. And re-editing. And editing some more.
SHR: Unrelated: What’s your favorite color?
SJ: Purple. And green. And blue. And black. And sometimes silver. Sepia on occasion.
Like many young men at the end of the 1800s Bill has signed on to work in a logging camp to earn a fast paycheck to start his life. Unfortunately his role model is Big John, the camp’s golden boy known for blowing his pay as fast as he makes it. On a cold Saturday night they enter Red’s Saloon to forget the work that takes the sweat and the lives of so many. Red may have plans for their whiskey money, but something else lurks in the shadows, something that badly wants a drink that has nothing to do with alcohol. Can Bill make it back out the shabby door or does someone have their own plans for his future?
Tom’s head very slowly shifted towards them, and Bill shuddered. There were days he’d survived the logging camp and the extreme conditions by will power and prayer alone, all the while wondering in the back of his head what it would be like if he didn’t have even that. Looking at the vagrant, he knew.
Ben was cursing behind them. “I saw him not more than a month ago and he didn’t look like that. Solitary life don’t turn a man in that short a’ time! Maybe he’s got rabies or fever n’ ague.”
Tom’s eyes sat so far back in his skull, it was impossible to tell what color they were, though they harbored a steady, unsettling gleam. They roved over the huddled group, searching hungrily for an easy mark. Bill’s heart plummeted to his boots when the hollow glitter locked onto him. He was suddenly as cold as he was when a seventh-year blizzard hit. All the frustrations and hell he’d endured since joining the logging team, all his good intentions and reasons, all he was trying to move forward to, swelled and jumbled together in a brief, howling wind of thought. The two distant stars in Tom’s eyes were the only thing that pegged him as a stable man in his otherwise rotting and dozy appearance.
All around the little group, the saloon’s weekend life went on. The distant sound of swearing and dice clattering across the floor mixed with discordant harmonies and a half-hearted mouth organ. But in the area by the bar, all was muffled and still. It was like the snows had come without warning over the forest, smothering everything in their path with chilled silence. Bill shuddered, and out of the corner of his eye, noticed Red do the same.
“You want I should knock his ears down, Red?” John’s bravado was the sudden yell that knocked the snow from the treetops, for better or ill. He had the relaxed look of a man who’d been in his cup just enough to throw caution to the wind. “I’ll toss him out and give ‘im a pat on the lip he won’t forget!”
“Leave be, John,” the barkeep muttered. His hand never stopped wiping down the bar. Though his head was tilted down towards his task, his eyes were set on their target across the room.
“What…what you want me to do for a drink?” At first it didn’t register that that thing, that man, had actually spoken. His voice was high and reedy, and cracked the way the thinnest ice along the river did.
“What you want me to do for a drink?” His lips cracked when his mouth moved. A thin trail of spittle dripped off his lower lip and was quickly caught up by the tip of the derelict’s seeking tongue. The distant gleam in Tom’s eyes burned as his mouth formed the last word. Otherwise, it was hard to even say how he’d made it into the saloon; he looked more than a little dim.
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