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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.