Sometime I Miss You

Names, names, names…

My writer fried Teresa recently posted about her name change. It’s pretty timely, as I have just changed my pen name. I used to go by the name Eric Keys and I wrote some brutal horror porn. Based on the reviews on Goodreads, I’d say I did a good job. I’m not recommending you look them up, but it’s hard for me not to express some pride in the accomplishment.

It was an angry period of my life. Almost all the stories were rooted in my anger. The one exception was an almost romantic piece called For the Glory which was about an unlikely love affair between a Jewish Dom and a White supremacist Sub.

Most of my anger was about God and the church. It was strange, because I still thought of the world in Christian terms. Even at my most belligerently skeptical, I managed to somehow exude an unwitting respect for the very God I was attacking. The more brutal my fiction became, the more I keenly felt His absence.

My anger took on a momentum, though. My vision was clouded by despair. I’m not saying there is such a thing as demons, but I felt like I was caught up in a struggle against darkness. And I was losing…

I was working on a sequel to one of my first eBooks. The original was called Grace & Blood and the sequel – never published – was the last horror porn I ever wrote. It was a sort of goodbye to the genre. The hero was a man used to killing. He was good at it and he enjoyed it, but he came face to face with an evil even greater than himself. At the end of the book he faces a decision – give in to the power that both frightened and fascinated him or walk away. He made his choice and I realized, I could not make the same choice, but that was what I was doing with each story – making his choice over and over.

I’ve got nothing against horror, but the spirit in which I was writing those stories was not a healthy one. I felt like the titular empathetic sadist from this post by Jodi Perkins. I pushed my characters deeper and deeper into a depravity which both titillated and sickened me. It was not a healthy place.

So, now, I feel like I need to take a step back and to think differently about how I approach horror. Yes, I am still a horror writer, but now I want to write from a place of unity as I explore all these paradoxes. I’m currently revising a ghost story about the movements in my soul which have changed me from a writer of brutal horror porn to something else… I hope it will still bring some chills but I want them to reflect my spiritual maturation. At least, I hope it is a maturation. It’s a change, that’s for sure.

I do miss Eric sometimes. And some of the friends he formed. I’m not seeking out many of his old friends. Some of them would probably rather not hear from him. Some of them wouldn’t mind. If you’re an old friend of his, drop me a line using the info on my contact page. But if you don’t want to, hey, I’ll understand. Eric could be kind of a jerk! Maybe you’re better off without him! But Thomas, hopefully, isn’t such a bad guy.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. How has you writing changed over the years? How have you changed over the years?

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The Christian who Couldn’t Believe

Paradoxes…

I spoke about this briefly the other day. I’ve entered a state of life where it seems that paradox is the rule instead of the exception. I’m not sure how I ended up here, but here is where I am.

The biggest paradox I’ve been dealing with today is the paradox of how I can label myself a Christian when I do not even believe He is real?

Part of it is that I see my act of faith as throwing my lot in with His program, aligning myself with His agenda to promote His kingdom where the first is last and the servant is greater than the master. I’ve always been fascinated by His words and I have made a commitment to follow those words as best as His grace enables me.

That doesn’t seem so bad, right? A lot of people align themselves with some plan or idea inspired by someone long dead and buried. But I’m in a worse plight. You see, Jesus talks to me. Seriously, I don’t believe in Him and yet He has this annoying way of showing up in my brain and telling me all sorts of crazy things about how much He loves me. And I love Him.

He shows up and things change: anger drops away, tension lifts, fear dissipates.

I long for Him. He used to show up in visions when I locked myself in my room wanting nothing bu death. He showed up bloody and glory and stirred up my soul to want the infinite, covering me with His blood, dancing His bloody dance through me.

So, there’s my paradox for the day – I love this man whose existence seems so unlikely. He laughs at me when I try to dismiss Him. He knows He has my heart, what use does He have for my brain?

Why fiction? Why the Blood?

Why fiction?

For some people this isn’t even a sensible question. For some people story is something they live, breathe and eat. Sadly, I’ve been blessed/cursed with a philosopher’s temperament. I questions things – perhaps too much. I’ve seen the damage story can do as well as the heights of ecstasy it can bring. Story is dangerous. In the hands of the demagogue it can fan the fires of hatred. And in the hand of the dreamer, it can lull the soul to a sickly sleep.

Still… Still, I crave story. But I have to question it. So, I spin theories… Well, theory is probably too grandiose a word. Perhaps a better word would be idea. I can’t help but have ideas about writing. It’s part of my character. In the past my motivating idea was story as dance between author and audience. I have to admit I stole this idea from Thomas Ligotti. It was and is a good one. It motivated many of the stories I wrote under my old pen name.

But I’m in a new phase of life and I need a new motivating idea for my writing. For now, I use story as a way to examine the paradox of problems. Different genres of writing express certain ideas and modes of thinking more naturally than others, at least, in the hands of certain people.

For me, story allows me to explore problems without an eye toward explaining them or showing their solution. I want to bring the problem – especially the paradoxes that lie at the root of so many of our deepest problems – without giving the impression that I understand these problems any more than my readers. In other words, I see story as an expression of solidarity.

We face the paradoxes every day and try to hide. I’ve run from so many of these… the first becomes last, seeking life is seeking death, the savior nailed to the cross, ecstasy hidden in blood.