Listen, I think my favoritest urban fantasy book of all time is Stephen Blackmoore’s Dead Things. And it’s since bloomed into a bad-ass series for LA necromancer Eric Carter, who is usually in deep with supernatural shenanigans — ghosts, gods, Death Herself. You know, the usual. I’m a book behind (as I’m awful about keeping up with series), but today the newest is out — Ghost Money is here, and so Blackmoore emerges from the ash and the mist to drop a guest post in your lap. Here, then, is a post about death and dying. (And check out his series — it’s important to support authors right now, and with a huge bonus, you also support yourself too because hey, BOOKS ARE AWESOME.)
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This is a bad time for all of us. The world is in a swirling shitstorm and when the dust, poop, whatever just go with it, settles the world is going to look very different than it does today.
The middle of a pandemic is maybe not the best time to release a book, and certainly not a book where death is a central theme. I recognize this, and I hope this doesn’t come across as flippant, or in any way disrespecting the very real fact that someone reading this may very well have a friend or a loved one sick, in the hospital, dead.
Yes, this is marketing. Yes, I’m writing this because I hope some of you will be interested in my writing enough to buy my books. But stay with me for a minute, if you would. Marketing or no, I do have a couple of things to say on the topic of dying.
The Eric Carter series is urban fantasy about a modern-day necromancer in Los Angeles. His parents are dead, his best friend is not only dead but had his soul ripped to shreds, he’s married (read: shotgun wedding) to the folk-saint Santa Muerte / Aztec goddess of death Mictecacihuatl. He and Death are on a literal first name basis.
For all that death you’d think there’d be more talk about an afterlife. There’s some. Most of the third book, HUNGRY GHOSTS, takes place in Mictlan, the Aztec land of the dead. In Carter’s world gods are real, the dead go to wherever the dead are going to go, Valhalla, Heaven, Elysium, or the Void. But what does that mean? Carter knows about Mictlan firsthand, but beyond that? Hasn’t a clue.
And, of course, neither do I. How much of Carter’s view on the world is mine, just as how much of any character’s viewpoint is the author’s, is hard to nail down. I know I wouldn’t do half the shit he would. Mostly because he can be an idiot. But also because there are lines he’ll cross that I won’t. I’ll keep to myself which ones those are.
One place I know where he and I are in sync, however, is in my view of death and dying.
Regardless where a soul, if it exists, goes, if anywhere, when someone dies, they’re dead. I know that sounds like a remarkably stupid thing to point out, but how many times have you heard someone say, “They’re in a better place.” Really? Better? 24/7 booze fountains and cocaine roadways? Strippers of every stripe giving out lapdances and handjobs?
I don’t know if they’re in a better place. I don’t know if it’s all sparkly unicorn shit, or fire and elephant farts. All I know is that they’re gone. Elvis has left the building, as they say. They are gone and I will never see them again. They’ve left behind an empty shell of rotting meat and we’re supposed to take it stoically and say, “Oh, they’re in a better place.”
GHOST MONEY opens with the line, “Dying is easy. Grieving is hard.” I believe that. Not saying that dying can’t be agonizing. I know it is. Whether it takes five minutes or fifty years. Our bodies don’t want to die. They fight, sometimes far longer than anyone else will. They’ll sacrifice key systems in a desperate bid to keep the brain alive. But I think it’s still easier than being left behind.
Grieving IS hard. I have a feeling that right now some of you are grieving and it is the hardest thing you have ever done. And I am so, so sorry for that. You are being forced, and I mean forced like ripping a door open with a crowbar is forced, to say goodbye to someone you love. How dare they be taken away from us. How dare death tear them out of our lives and leave a gaping hole that nothing is going to fill.
Death is RUDE. Who said you could come into MY house and steal MY love, MY memories? I don’t care if they’re in a better place, they’re not HERE. They’ll never be here. It’s over. It’s done.
That’s how I see death. Rude. Insolent. The greatest of faux pas. A discourtesy that cannot ever be forgiven. You are, will be, and have been grieving. You and I share that if nothing else. We all know loss. We know what it’s like to have our worlds upended because someone was ripped away from us. Your grief is different from my grief, but it doesn’t make it any easier, any less valid.
I hope that as time goes by, you’ll grieve a little less. You might, you might not. You might mourn the rest of your life or wake up in a week and feel fine. Those rages of gut-wrenching emotion coming out of nowhere might ease. I won’t blow smoke up your ass and say that they will.
But I sincerely hope that they do.
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The Los Angeles Firestorm killed over a hundred thousand people, set in revenge against necromancer Eric Carter for defying the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl. Carter feels every drop of that blood on his hands. But now there’s a new problem.
Too many ghosts in one spot and the barrier separating them from the living cracks. And when they cross it, they feed off all the life they can get hold of. People die. L.A. suddenly has a lot more ghosts.
But it’s not just one or two ghosts breaking through: it’s dozens. Another mage is pulling them through the cracks and turning them into deadly weapons. Eric follows a trail that takes him through the world of the Chinese Triads, old associates, old crimes. And a past that he thought he was done with.
Carter needs to find out how to get things under control, because if more ghosts break through, there’s going to be even more blood on his hands.