My calendar reminds me it’s been three years since the publication of The Mona Lisa Sacrifice, the first in my Cross series of supernatural thrillers. I wasn’t sure where the tale of Cross and his angel enemies and mythical friends would lead me, but it turned into a wild and unpredictable journey. Shakespearean spirits and faerie intrigue! Strange, magical libraries! Undead Atlanteans, literary vampires and crazed angels! The difficulties of being a single parent to a ghost child! The horrors of monstrous royal families! The complications of love among immortal beings! And a host of characters that seem to have been born more from their own imaginations than mine – including, of course, Alice.
I think as a writer the thing you hope for most is to create a world that hasn’t been done before – and that wouldn’t have been made up by anyone else. Something that is a unique creation, a world that other people want to visit for a time and return to at different points in their lives, be it for discovery, nostalgia, comfort or joy. Those are the books that live on in my imagination. Hopefully Cross and his friends are creating such a world for some of you.
Also, I have recently finished the first draft of the fourth book in the Cross series. With any luck, you’ll have a chance to spend more time with Cross and his friends – and enemies – in the near future. Which, with Cross, always means a trip into our secret pasts….
Happy Canada Day! It’s been 150 years since our ancestors were banished from the Elder Lands and exiled to Canada, where they built the Great Tomb of Parliament to imprison the Sleeping Horror, which awakens once every, you guessed it, 150 years. And you thought those screams were from the fireworks.
Anyway, my publisher ChiZine is offering all its Canadian-authored books for free or pay what you can today, because there will be no tomorrow. Get them while you still can.
Tired of misplacing your Cross books during arcane rituals? Can’t remember the order of the Cross series ever since that angel melted your mind in the movie theatre because someone texted you? Interested in new Cross tales to give you some hope or at least distraction during these dark times? Then you may want to check out the new Cross omnibus.
The omnibus features the first three Cross books — The Mona Lisa Sacrifice (No. 1 Amazon.ca Fantasy and Historical Fiction bestseller), The Dead Hamlets, and The Apocalypse Ark — plus two new Cross stories never before published! In “The World Will Drown in Tears,” Cross stumbles into a strange battle in a frozen wasteland that some history scholars will recognize. And “A Different Kind of Wolf” puts Cross at the centre of a very famous fairy tale, but with a few diabolical twists all of his own.
The omnibus is ebook only, because to put it in print form would be to risk breaking the eighth seal. It’s available at fine online book emporiums everywhere, except for where it’s not. Buy it now, before the world ends! (It will also be available after the end of the world.)
Plus, there are hidden tentacles on the cover!
Praise for the Cross series:
- “If you liked Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, you’ll love The Mona Lisa Sacrifice”: CBC
- “The Mona Lisa Sacrifice is a deliriously unhinged roller coaster of a novel, blending fantasy, history, horror and humour with the aplomb of an overfull blender, but all of it smarter than it, truly, has any right — or need — to be”: National Post
- “Never lets the reader pause for breath . . . fans of the genre will find one of its ultimate expressions here”: Publishers Weekly
- “Sweeps you up with its gallows humour, whether you’re revelling in the pleasures of two-fisted, angel-punching action or the cleverly rendered language.”: Quill & Quire
- “Takes urban fantasy to a different level”: Library Journal
- “A pulp novel with genuine depth and wisdom, insight and consummate skill”: Regina Leader-Post
- “There are few writers, in this country at any rate, quite as unhinged and skilled, simultaneously, regardless of genre”: Saskatoon StarPhoenix
- “A fun, and whip-smart, read” – Vancouver Sun
- “A Rewarding, Witty, Hot Mess of Angel-Pummeling, Action and Noir Detective Fiction” – Pop Bop on Goodreads
- “Resembles something written by Neil Gaiman at times with its somewhat mystical imagery and at other times it reads as a full-blown work of bizarro fiction.” – Minneapolis Books Examiner
- “A spiritual relative to Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim and Lavie Tidhar’s Bookman series, meaning that anyone (and anything) in the literary universe is fair game. Mythological beasts, Lovecraftian allusions, pirates, and characters from Moby Dick and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea all fuse together to form a vastly entertaining, fantastical, breakneck hodgepodge quest novel” – Publishers Weekly
- “One of Canada’s finest literary writers” – CBC
- “If you like your literature with a nitro fueling, you’ll love these” – CBC
- “One of the strongest, and strangest, literary creations this country has ever seen” – The Vancouver Sun
- “Is he still making up those crazy stories? When is he going to get a real job?” – Mom
I’m happy to announce that ChiZine, the publisher of my Cross series, will be publishing an omnibus edition of the first three Cross books this coming spring. Which is really just an excuse to show off another supernaturally good cover by Erik Mohr. Bonus content will be one or two Cross short stories, depending on their length when I’ve finished editing them.
The omnibus will be ebook only, because print is dead and we learned our lesson after people reading The Apocalypse Ark in bookstores raised all those ghouls in that hidden graveyard under the Barnes & Noble.
It’s the very first time I’ve seen all my Cross books together in a bookstore! Thanks, Chapters!
Well, that’s the Sixth Seal broken. On to the next one.
I’ll be appearing at Word Vancouver, Sunday, Sept. 25, at 2:30 in the Suspension Bridge venue, as part of the Adventures in History session. I’ll be reading from The Apocalypse Ark or my teenage journal or something like that. I’ll be followed by Ronald Wright at 2:50, who will be reading from his book The Gold Eaters. Unless, of course, the time travel experiment goes awry, and then all schedules are off.
There are all numbers of things fantastic in my third Cross novel, The Apocalypse Ark. There are angels and a crazed Noah, sorcerous pirates and sunken cities, a vampire and a white whale, to name just a few. In one sense, the book is a stand-in for the ark of the title, which in Cross’s universe is not the ship that saved humanity but is instead the storage place for all of God’s misfit creations. There are many such misfits in the book. In another, more personal sense, The Apocalypse Ark is a return to some of the things that inspired me to begin writing when I was a child.
The cast of curious creatures is nothing new for the series. The first two Cross books, The Mona Lisa Sacrifice and The Dead Hamlets, also have their share of the mythological and wondrous. With those books, though, the fantastic was much more grounded in the real. I’ve always loved fantasy, but I really wanted to create a fantasy series that was about our world rather than some made-up realm — I wanted readers to feel a real-life connection to the characters and places in the books, even if the characters were immortals, faerie and the like.
In The Mona Lisa Sacrifice, the fantasy elements are very clearly tied to our world — the Gaudi church in Barcelona inspired much of the book (as I’ve written about before), the gorgon is linked to a statue in the Louvre and a glass skull in the British Museum, Cross’s love Penelope is enmeshed in the spiritualist movement, an abandoned factory in Detroit is the setting for a key scene and so forth. There’s even a real-life painting or two that play a role.
I continued to find the fantasy in the real with The Dead Hamlets, where the Tower of London plays a key role, as does the castle that likely inspired Hamlet. There are a few other things, such as a certain cemetery, a legendary historical text, Westminster Abbey, the church where Shakespeare is buried, a real-life haunted theatre and rumoured ghost, and so on. I let my imagination run a little more wild in The Dead Hamlets, creating settings and characters that are definitely out of this world, but for the most part I was working within pre-existing myths, legends and texts.
With The Apocalypse Ark, I set sail for the seas of the imagination instead of the real world, though. The novel originated in a mad fantasy rather than the real world, after all — the idea that Noah was God’s jailer rather than humanity’s saviour and had gone mad and sought to end the world. As with the other books, I wanted a wild assortment of mythic characters and magical settings, but rather than find their origins in real life I wanted to anchor them in books, movies, and other works of art that had meant something to me. (Some of you may say there is no difference between real life and art, but bear with me….)
In many ways, The Apocalypse Ark is a tribute to the works that inspired me as a youth and lit the fires of my imagination. Chief among them is the film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, based on the Jules Verne novel. I remember seeing the movie in a school gymnasium right before the holidays when I was in elementary school. I sat on the floor in the dark with hundreds of other students and watched, mesmerized, as the secret submarine Nautilus emerged from the depths and its crew did battle with a giant squid. It was a dark, stylish film with more than a little moral ambiguity and complex ideas for a young child such as myself. It was a far cry from the usual Disney fare I was used to, and I was hooked immediately.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was one of those things that changed the way I thought about books and movies — Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Amber were a couple of other notable atomic texts for me. It wasn’t long after I saw the movie that I found myself reading HP Lovecraft’s books and devouring the Conan tales, which are every bit as dark and disturbing as Lovecraft. If I were to go back through my life, I could probably follow the wake of the Nautilus through all my younger, formative years, right into university, where I discovered Melville’s tale of Ahab and the white whale. Another work of art that changed everything for me.
There’s so much of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in The Apocalypse Ark — the Nautilus and Nemo are both present in more than a passing manner. There’s a bit of steampunk to it, which was deliberate as I see 20,000 Leagues as one of the early steampunk works — not only for its stylish vision but also for its critique of capitalism and industry. The whole Cross series follows an antihero, of which we have a couple examples in 20,000 Leagues. Jules Verne even makes an appearance in The Apocalypse Ark! And, of course, The Apocalypse Ark does have a memorable giant squid attack. I hope it’s memorable, anyway….
I also wrote in the other books that influenced me, the ones that Verne’s Nautilus led me toward. The Sunken City may remind you of a certain Lovecraft aquatic abode, and I tried to channel the madness of Moby Dick with my own version of Ahab and the white whale.
It’s not all echoes and homages, though — I like to think I managed to create my own dark and wondrous world populated by deranged angels, cunning vampires and crazed kraken and the like. I would love it if readers set sail into the sea of my imagination and find it as much a shock and inspiration as that moment I found myself huddled in the dark on a gymnasium floor, watching a strange new world come to life before me.
I hope The Apocalypse Ark carries you away, dear reader, much as 20,000 Leagues carried me away to a world I never could have imagined but can now never forget.
I was sorry to see the end of Ad-Astra. I had a great time on the panels and the ChiZine reading I took part in — pretty funny to see six authors try to read in an hour, but we pulled it off with time to spare! It was lovely to see some old friends and meet some new ones and just to generally soak in the amazing creativity that was everywhere — the events, the costumes, the questions and answers, the readings, the games, the dealer booths, etc. I’ve actually been trying to do less events as I focus on my writing and family, but damn, Ad-Astra kind of made me want to do more!
The airport part drained me, though. The pic above is from the underworld of Pearson airport, where I found myself wandering aimlessly for a time while searching for a flight. I felt like Sisyphus….
The author copies of The Apocalypse Ark arrived today! They are strangely wet and smell of Kraken rum, but they are here!
I’ve long been a fan of Sebastien de Castell and his Greatcoats series, which started with Traitor’s Blade, so I got a kick out of sharing some Amazon bestseller space with him. He’ll never let me live it down that he beat The Apocalypse Ark, though….
If you want to learn more about Sebastien and his kickass fantasy series, check out the interview and podcast I did with him at The Province, where he talks about moving from the barista lifestyle to the rich and glamorous life of a plumber after signing an eight-book publishing deal (it’s all explained in the interview).