Signed Books II: the Reckoning


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Elizabeth Báthory had a dwarf accomplice named Fickó.

That fact has nothing to do with the rest of this post. Books! Specifically, my novel! I recently sold a small box of them I stumbled upon, and they sold fast. In fact some people who contacted me were not able to get one. So, I’m going to do a second round of signed copies of my novel, Strangeness in the Proportion.

You too will smile as big as this happy reader…


What do you get?

  • A physical copy of the book! All three dimensions (plus a bonus dimension). Look at that creepy cover by Christopher Shy.
  • Autographed, with anything else you’d like scrawled in it.
  • A genuine toe tag bookmark (never mind how I got them!).

The price (which includes shipping) is $25 to ship to the US and $45 to other countries (sorry, shipping nailed me last round). You can also buy the book cheaper and in electronic format (but sans signature and toe tag) at the link above.

I’ll accept payments through Paypal. If interested, email me at (that’s not my paypal address, email me first) for details. I’ll get a shipment of the books in October, which means I should be able to have shipped to people before Halloween (a perfect time to read it!).

Want a taste of the novel? This is my short and sweet synopsis:

Boy gets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl back…one piece at a time.

Want a deeper look? The dynamic duo at The Booked Podcast does a lovely review of it.

My Fiction In Review #1: Blood, Snow, and Sparrows


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Book of Dead Things

It’s a time of transition. A little lull. I’m rearranging my writing space, both physical and virtual. Retooling. Getting ready for future projects. I finally cleaned up and updated my Written Works page.

So I figure it’s a good time to dust off my wares and review what’s come before. Starting today, every day, I’ll set out a juicy sample, an excerpt and some commentary for each of my published and available works. Care to time travel with me via spilled ink?

Our first story takes us back to the beginning, 2007 (and some years prior), back to Twilight Tales.

Twilight TalesTwilight Tales was weekly genre reading series in Chicago. Every Monday, area writers gathered in the warm, dim light of the Red Lion pub to read their genre fiction to the gathered audience. It was a motley collection, all ages, all experience levels. A lot of writers shared their wisdom or cut their teeth here. The Red Lion (a British-style pub) was itself a character. Old and creaking, with a splendid beer garden with a tree, our Yggdrasil, growing impossibly out of all the buildings. It was on more than one haunted tour. Hell, this is the place that Captain America beat the crap out of Giant-Man/Ant-man. Sadly, the Red Lion was eventually torn down. I here tell it has since risen again in a new incarnation (though I haven’t been there yet).

Twilight Tales was where I honed my words. Reading to a live audiences teaches you storytelling lessons you don’t learn in any other way. I met fantastic people. I heard wonderfully bizarre stories. It was just the right place, the right time, and the right mix of folk. It was my sandbox and playground, and I miss it fiercely.

Twilight Tales takes us to The Book of Dead Things. Published by Twilight Tales Press, I had submitted a story to it (I forget what) and it was rejected. Later on, I read a different story at the open mic. Tina Jens (one of the editors) liked it so much she asked to include it.

Success! “Blood, Snow, and Sparrows” was my first professional sale in print. I wrote it in a grad school class. I’m looking at it now. This goes back far enough that I can cringe at parts and think Ugh…did I make that sentence? But we have to start somewhere. And it did earn me one of my favorite comments:

Joshua Alan Doetsch is not good. Joshua Alan Doetsch is darkly transcendent. It was so amazing it was like Ray Bradbury got high and started listening to Nine Inch Nails and decided to write about ‘the

You can pick it up in one of the few copies of The Book of Dead Things still floating about. You can also listen to the entire story, for free, as an audio read on the Psueodpod podcast.

Without further delay, here are the first few paragraphs (and a little mood music by way of the Psuedopod intro tune).

Blood, Snow, and Sparrows (an excerpt)

Desdemona used to trace the stars with her finger, connecting the dots, naming her own constellations.

I call upon her name.


I call her name when I want to remember.

Desdemona—who gave me thirty-one birthdays when I had none. Desdemona—who laughed and made snow angels on rooftops because the snow there was cleanest, the closest to Heaven. Desdemona—who made an angel of snow and blood in the dirty street on the day I lost her.

I remember this, now, as Zeek struggles in my arms, anger and fear evacuating his body in crimson spurts, and my smile dislocates my jaw. Zeek with the shroud-eye, one eye glaucoma-clouded, said it was his evil eye, said he could hex a body with a stare, cast a pestilence. But, see, I knew better. I knew it was Zeek’s dirty needles that killed the kids. And the night collapses with primate shrieks, as Zeek tries to lift his bloody gun and…

Freeze. Too far. Backtrack.

Once upon a time, Desdemona Mercer giggled in frustration and joy and chucked her astronomy textbook off the roof we made love on. She connected the dots and named her own constellations, and when the winter wind came, we folded in on one another, seeing how close we could get in my sleeping bag. We spent hours seeing how close we could get.

Now, I stare in the cracked mirror, and I connect the track marks on my body, form constellations with them. I name each one. But then the memories cut too deep, and I give up on the angry stars burning in a pale Milky Way of collapsed veins, and I plunge the needle behind my eye and inject.

I count the bullets—one, two, three—and wonder how many good deeds it’ll take.

The Christopher Walken Tarot Deck


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My father is a magician. He does impossible things. He does it well enough that when I have a party, my friends ask, “Yeah…but will your dad be there?” Sometimes, I write and voice things for his shows. Once, I played the part of a ghost trapped in a bottle.

Most recently, I wrote up and recorded a bit where I play an animated drawing of Christopher Walken. Recently, I posted the crazy, five-card tarot deck I invented for the routine.

Here’s a recording of the trial-run performance of that routine. I think there’s some nuts and bolts we’ll tighten, shorten it up a bit, but it’s had a good maiden voyage with the audience.

I Can Do a Tarot In Five Cards


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So I’ve written and done voice work for a number of my dad’s magic show bits. Including my performance as a haunted playing card. I’ve recently written and recorded a voice bit for my dad’s latest show. That video is coming soon, but in the meantime, here’s a text and image sampling. For the routine, I invented a new tarot deck, consisting of only four cards. My sister, Danielle Doetsch, drew those cards

Forget Minor Arcana. Forget Major Arcana. This is the Super-Ultiamte-Delux-Ultra Arcana. Each of these five cards represents one of the basic, primal archetypes that has haunted man’s mind since he crawled out of the primordial ooze…

I. The Cyborg Whale


See the hulking brute — half machine, half marine mammal, sent back in time to unleash leviathan carnage. This card suggests dual natures, diametrically opposed forces, the yin and the yang. This is the duplicitous edge of life and death that we all dance upon. Some days are cold, calculating, and pragmatic…and some days are eleven tons of rotting whale blubber.

II. The Creepy Doll


See the frightful ragamuffin — the dead glass eyes, weirdness stitched into its tiny limbs. It only moves when you take your eyes off it. This card suggests a lurking presence, unexpected strife, upheaval. That detail we mistook as small and insignificant coming back to haunt us. This card also represents unexpected opportunity. You never know just what’s waiting around the corner…wielding your missing kitchen knife.

III. The Grinning Roadkill


See the furry cadaver — flies buzzing, belly bloated, a putrid stench — and yet, the mournful decay of death reveals a big, toothy grin. This card suggests an involuntary change of circumstance, a transitory state, and destruction. But also, renewal. The maggots of redemption are always chewing. And there’s a wisdom to smiling when things seem at their worst.

IV. The Cannibal Lovers


See the masticating sweethearts — I said masticating! — a ravenous romance, a gory picnic, one flesh. Where does one end and the other begin? This card suggests an irresistible attraction, hunger for life, the drawing together of opposites, and an ouroboric cycle unending. It is the affirmation that there is no exquisite beauty without some strangeness in the proportion.

V. The Flatulent Astronaut


See the embarrassed explorer — trying to hold his breath, a gastric disaster, nowhere to go, there’s no escape from our inner demons. This card suggests a journey, delving heedlessly into the unknown, and our own folly turned against us. But sometimes we come face to face with what we perceive as our most loathsome qualities, only to feel relief in the end.

A Toe Tag From Me is Like a Valentine


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UPDATE: My copies of the book are sold out, but more can be bought HERE.

The last few weeks saw a lot of road trippin’. A visit home to my parents’ house turned up a forgotten box of copies of my novel, Strangeness in the Proportion. Behold!

File 2015-08-05, 10 52 45 PM

I will be moving soon and must shed the weight of as many earthly possessions as possible. That’s where you come in! I will be taking online orders for copies of the book. $20 will give you the following:

  • A physical copy of the book! All three dimensions (plus a bonus dimension). Look at that creepy cover by Christopher Shy.
  • Autographed, with anything else you’d like scrawled in it.
  • A genuine toe tag bookmark* (never mind how I got them!).
  • Shipping (if you live in some far flung place, we can talk about how much that’ll cost).

Want a taste of the novel? This is my short and sweet synopsis:

Boy gets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl back…one piece at a time.

Want a deeper look? The dynamic duo at The Booked Podcast does a lovely review of it.

I’ll accept payments through Paypal. If interested, email me at (that’s not my paypal address, email me first) for details. First come, first serve. Only a small handful of these.

*And If I already owe you a toe tag, that’s coming soon!

No Instruction Manual For Being Dead


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Nosferatu - "1337" arty by Mark Kelly

Nosferatu – “1337”
art by Mark Kelly

Fangs are fun when you don’t miss the sun.

Gaming and roleplaying have done a lot for me. They pushed me to meet friends, travel, and learn some of my earliest lessons in storytelling. It’s even led to a career. And one of the games that had the most profound effect on me was Vampire the Masquerade. Now, in its V20 (20th anniversary) guise, I get to play with some of those toys professionally.

The Kickstarter for the Deluxe V20 Lore of the Clans has begun. I’ll let that page tell you about the book. I got to do the write ups of two of the clans therein: the Followers of Set and the Tzimisce. The Kickstarter has some fun pledge rewards, and a nifty achievement system (involving some vampire-themed selfies). You can even download the pre-layout text of the 99% finished manuscript.

Here’s a little sample of what I wrote in it, the opening fiction from the Tzimisce chapter:


The Hospitality in Clay

With the ghoul’s corpse at my feet, I knew I was dead. Because, years ago, the Countess had vowed to end me, and the spirits of the angry earth hear her promises.

Had the Cardinal sent me to die? A gift-wrapped soul to squeeze the juices out of? He said it would be a fine gesture, an old enemy welcoming her to the new world. I was the one, the only survivor of my pack, or any of the other packs for that matter. All that prestige, but it was just dumb luck. My Romanian nights. The bad nights. The kind of hell you can only enter by pissing off an ancient, entrenched Fiend. I still wake to blood sweats in the day, pulling the grave dirt over myself like a safety blanket.

I drove up the long driveway, in disbelief that a creature like the Countess could uproot and move to New England. We never actually beat the crafty Koldun. One night, she offered peace and to play nice with the Sword of Caine. She had a very specific list of demands. We agreed to every one.

Approaching the manor, I caught memory fragments, thought I recognized trees, stones, brickwork, and statues. I could smell it — in the potted plants and garden — soil from the old country, aeons of blood and loam. That’s the thing about earth: it smells like birth and decay, and you take on the dreams of those who died in it. The Countess was the land, and she had brought it with her, piece by piece.

I waited for a servant to formally invite me inside before stepping over the threshold. Old memories haunted the manse. In the dining hall, I found a woman weeping. Mortal. Dinner. Then I found a dead man on the luxuriant carpet, throat vacated. I recognized him, a revenant ghoul, the Countess’s favorite.

A door burst open. “My lady, come quickly!” a voice called out. Another familiar face, Janos. We had flesh-ripping history. We flashed mutual fangs.


I flinched. Didn’t see her enter. Just a gust of wind, and then her stark face, cheekbones raised like guillotine blades.

“Countess,” I stammered. When did I learn to bow? She was resplendent in her frock coat. I felt suddenly self-conscious in my leather and body mods. I’m a child of the night. A badass skin-flaying, fang-kicker. Wherefore this fucking shame?

“He killed one of yours, in your own home,” Janos said.

A deadly dark eyebrow arched. The rest of her was statue still, except those long, powerful fingers. Her hands never stop moving. She looked at me. Through me. Dying moths fluttered under my skin.

Then she looked at Janos.

“No,” she said. “That is not what happened.”

“He killed Mircea!”

“That is two lies, Janos.”

Her grandchilde’s mouth opened. Closed. Then he whispered, “I did it for you, Baba. Now we can kill him.”

“That is not what must happen now.”

“No….” Janos looked hurt. “I am your blood. He is the enemy. They killed so many. Him, him, him!” Janos foamed, knife in hand, and leapt at me.

Then the Countess was there, shielding me, the knife in her chest. Her face was still, but the rats raged in the walls, the wind shrieked, and the windows blackened with thousands of leathery wings.

Janos cowered. “No, Baba. Don’t kill me.”

“Shhh,” she said, a finger on Janos’s lips, and he froze. “I honor enemies with death, not trespassers.” She then whispered old words into his ear. I heard the name “Kruchina.” Janos wept, full-bodied sobs, till he was nothing but blood tears and blood snot.

The Countess swallowed Janos with her eyes and said, “Go now and tell Fickó to give you thorough tenderness.” Janos’s head darted about in terror as his Judas limbs carried him away.

The lady of the manor then gently took my arm, pulled out my chair, and sat me down at the dining table. She placed the living girl before me.

“He was right,” I said. “That was a perfect opportunity to kill me.”

“You are my guest,” the Countess said, as if explaining gravity to a child who dropped a toy down a deep well with no echo. “Perhaps one day we will honor one another, but for tonight, I will sacrifice every drop of my blood and every pound of my flesh to protect you.”

Taking her seat, she opened an ornate music box. It played a twinkling Romanian lullaby. Inside was a handful of the ancient earth. Praying, she opened her wrist and bled upon the soil. Then, she began to eat.

My smartphone vibrated and burned in my pocket, but I dared not answer it. Outside, something howled. Somewhere, Janos screamed. That’s when I knew I was dead. Sooner or later. The Countess keeps every promise.

She looked up from her supper of crimson clay. “Are you not hungry?”

Black Bones and a Red Heart


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So I have a friend named Val. We’ve known each other for some time. Val has a husband named Allen and a little toddler daughter named Penny. Val informed me that I came up in family conversation during breakfast today, and it turned out to be my most favoritest description of me ever.

Val: <something Josh at GenCon something>
Penny: Josh?
Allen: Yes, remember mommy’s friend Josh? He wears a black coat.
Val: And a black hat. And black pants, and black shoes, and black shirts.
Penny: And black bones.
Val: Yes.
Penny: And a red heart.
Val: A tell-tale heart.

Reviews on the Crazy Train


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So… I got to participate in the Lovecraftian Mythos. I got to tickle my inner geek in several places. The Mythos. Call of Cthulhu (the RPG). Chaosium. It’s a short story called “Stained Windows,” and you can find it in the anthology Madness on the Orient Express (edited by the illimitable awesome that is James Lowder). Even better, I got to be nestled in with the names of some writers I really like.

The story is a sort of demented love story (between two recovering lunatics on a train). It’s also a gentleman thief story (shades of Arsène Lupin). It’s a weird noir (shades of Dark City). It’s a story about sleight of hand and escape artistry. And there’s a scary train. It’s got some mythos too.

It’s getting some encouraging reviews:

Stained Windows by Joshua Alan Doetsch. So if the last one made me think of Dostoyevsky existentialism, this story made me think of Camus. The tone and writing style really reminded me of The Stranger although the stories are completely different. Anyway, this is by far the most dreamlike, surreal and offbeat story in the entire collection and it’s the perfect way to end Madness on the Orient Express because honestly the title of this anthology could also be the title of this short story as well.

“Stained Windows is about a gentleman thief who is a bit over his head with his latest ‘acquisition.’ The main character has stolen an ancient tome and he’s on the Orient Express to deliver it to a buyer. However, a lot of other…factions want the tome too and they’re not going to take no for an answer. Along the way, the protagonist meets a whole bevy of characters, each of which gets stranger and madder the closer they get to the end of the line. The snappy dialogue of this piece makes it this a real treat, if not the outright crown jewel of the anthology and the ending is both abrupt and awesome. It’s not at all the ending you will expect for this tale but after you read it (maybe even re-read the story to get the full effect), it’s pretty perfect.

‘Stained Windows’ by Joshua Alan Doetsch is the final story of the collection, and was a real highlight for me. It’s one of the very longest stories, possibly too long. But it’s full of wonderful rich and disturbing imagery, that conjured up a world I was happy to stay in for as long as possible. I wasn’t quite sure what exactly was going on for a long time. You do find out eventually, but I liked the uncertainty that the story built. Was the main character really insane – despite their protestations – and delusional, or was there another explanation? As I said it was a real highlight for me, and I was quite sad when the story finished.

‘Stained Windows,’ by Joshua Alan Doetsch, is my other top fave (it was a close battle). It’s both nightmarish and dreamlike, a journey of true madness, brilliantly written and the best possible close to the book to make for maximum lingering unreality and can’t-stop-thinking-about-it effect.


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