Strange Air Characters: Jack Sibley

What Comes First? Character Or Story?

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A Memorial To The Korean Conflict, A War In Which Jack Sibley Fought and Lost a Piece Of His Soul

This is one of the classic writer questions, right? It is the literary equivalent of the chicken or the egg paradox. With some stories (or some writers) you can read their inspiration clearly. With Strange Air characters, however, I have found it’s usually a collision of the two elements.

Finding Jack Sibley was no different.

I knew I wanted to write a spin on the classic hunting story. William Faulkner wrote them. So did Ernest Hemmingway. I was also keenly aware that I didn’t want my rifle toting “man’s man” too confident or too obscure.

No, I wanted this tale to feel different. To accomplish that in The Meeting At Bishop’s Rest, I needed to land on a different mark entirely.

Who Is Jack Sibley?

Jack Sibley is the central character in The Meeting At Bishop’s Rest. He came to me as the best characters often do, in pieces, like a jigsaw puzzle.

My first clue to this character’s identity came in the source of his trauma: The Korean War. We don’t even refer to this war as a war. Instead, we call it a “conflict” which is to me feels like an undermining of what happened over there.

The conflict that seems to sit awkwardly in between two larger, more historically glorified and vilified wars: World War II and Vietnam.

My second clue was more abstract. I thought back on all those old men who sit quietly in the bar, pint of yellow beer in hand and a far away stare.

We often carry around more than we let on. Jack Sibley is a storyteller, though, so I was motivated to write a story about a character who tells stories but keeps the most impactful story in his life hidden.

Well, mostly hidden.

My last clue to Jack came, oddly, after dropping in on the Mount Hood Model Engineers earlier this spring.

My son, Elijah, is into trains and down the steps and through the little door of the old group’s clubhouse, we found a room teeming with miniature railroad curiosities. As my fascinated four-year old son danced around the room following the trains though, I kept watch on the old-timers.

These guys were from a time long past. They were antiques themselves. Without celebrating them, I thought, they’ll be lost altogether.

What Happens On Bishop’s Rest?

My fascination with old west motifs is on display in this short novella. Jack hatches his plan for revenge and gets up to the mountains but what he finds there is something different. He finds a new way home.

When Jack faces off with The Lone Rider apparition, it changes him. Suddenly, the need for revenge twists and he sees things different.

The Meeting At Bishop’s Rest is, at core, a hunting story. If you read any of the great hunting stories in literature, there is usually a face off.

Man versus nature. Somehow the gun or the harpoon are never enough. Man must always overcome something else.

I think I put Jack Sibley through that ring. For Strange Air characters though, what they face off against is rarely what it seems.

Where Can I Get This Book?

One of my goals in writing The Meeting At Bishop’s Rest was to give it away to my readers. I wanted this to be an open door through which they could get to know some of my favorite Strange Air characters.

Jack Sibley returns in the series. He returns quite soon, in fact, telling another yarn.

That’s a different story for a different day.

You can download a free copy of this book here.

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Heck, I’ll even give you a free short story from my Strange Air series of supernatural mysteries to get a taste of what all the hullaballoo is about.

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The Book Of Witness Characters – Sia Temple

erick mertz, the book of witness, supernatural mysteryBeware of working with kids and animals. I first heard that advice in reference to movies. When I dreamt up Sia Temple for The Book Of Witness, this advice struck me.

What did I end up doing in Bell The Cat? I doubled down. I wrote a story about a child and an animal.

The way I saw it, as a writer if you’re going to commit the cardinal sin of writing a story told from the point of view of a child, why not throw a cat in there too for good measure?

I don’t know if the short story “Bell The Cat” is really about a cat and a frightened little girl though. For me, the story is about strange patterns of behavior. Sia Temple is child seeking escape from her bickering parents. Consequently, she spends her days alone in the barn. The family’s barn cat (nature’s most willful miscreant) does the bidding of another.

Capturing strange behavior was my motivator for “Bell The Cat”. Even a slight variation on what we understand as “normal” has the capacity to frightens us to the core. Any detection of an unnatural action and movement is one of our primitive protections.

There is a distinct jolt when we experience our sense of order upside down.

Sia and Jasper are, I think, expressions of that fear, as subtle as that may be. Looking back at how the finished short story played out, I feel like there also a host of questions.

Where did Sia end up going after telling her story? Why did her teacher “Bell The Cat” go batty after moving to Portland? And what is Doctor Aldous going to do with the manuscript?

You can get your eBook copy of The Book Of Witness at my Books page, or go directly to my Amazon Author Page. You can also read a similar blog about Rebecca Cotton in “A Devil Wind”.

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The Book Of Witness Characters – Rebecca Cotton

the book of witness, erick mertz, supernatural mysteryEach of us has seemingly lived a life prior to the one we are living right now. All of us could have become someone or something else.

Not Rebecca Cotton though. Rebecca was born to become one thing: a fire fighter. In the story “A Devil Wind” from The Book Of Witness she describes a clarity of vision few of us are likely to feel in our lives. Even when faced with a tragedy, she remained steady.

Over the years, I have written countless versions of this particular short story. Each of those variations was told from a different point of view but something just didn’t work. What has remained consistent through this iteration was the idea of something moving into the forest fire when everything else should move away. That stayed in place. It was the unmovable part of the story.

Slowly, things in “A Devil Wind” unlocked. Foremost was transforming the point of view to a woman. Once I changed Robert to Rebecca the story took its proper shape. That’s what it took.

Her story was the one I wanted to tell.

In a previous life my sister was a fire fighter. Part of what helped me write this story was seeing the struggle she went through trying to achieve her dream. I don’t know if she experienced the same scrutiny as Rebecca would have in the 1950’s, but it was still an inspiration.

Gender prejudice is real. A man can simply work toward becoming a fire fighter. A woman must work to become a “female fire fighter” in a similar way that Barack Obama worked to become the first “black President”.

It’s a fine distinction maybe, but an important one nevertheless.

You can get your copy of The Book Of Witness to my Books page, or go directly to my Amazon Author Page. You can also read a similar blog about Sia Temple in “Bell The Cat”.

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The Book Of Witness – Volume #1

short read, erick mertz, paranormal fiction, the book of witnessEver heard of the parable of the blind men and the elephant? I will do my best to make this a short read but it goes a little something like this:

A group of blind men hear about a mysterious beast known as only the elephant. They want to get an idea of what the beast is about, so they touch it. But they only touch one part. One touches the flappy ears. Another touches the smooth tusks. Another touches the tail. Later on the blind men meet and take turns trying to describe the creature they experienced. Ultimately, they cannot agree because what each man touched was so wildly different than the other.

Writing a supernatural series like The Strange Air often feels like that parable. Whenever I try and bring a part of this massive world into the light, it’s becomes that elephant. And I’m a blind man.

It’s not just a tusk. Or a tail. It’s all of it.

~

My inspiration for the concept behind The Book Of Witness collection came from three places.

1.) Fiction readers want more short content. The novel is still king in fiction, but a short read performs well. Studies of Amazon buying behavior provide market insights proving this idea.

Readers want short fiction.

2.) I already have quite a few short pieces in the Strange Air series written. Going back a few years, every time I wanted to develop something in my world, I would write a witness account.

As a result, my Strange Air file was bursting with little “witness testimonies” as I liked to call them.

3.) Time did nothing to sour my enjoyment of these stories. Skimming back through my files, I found gems. Whether it was a character or a situation, I felt good about my ability to produce a short read.

~

the book of witness, erick mertz, supernatural fiction, short readAt first, bringing out a volume of stories because it makes market sense offered conflict. Seeing how I had already these stories though, and readers want them, it just made sense.

Once I decided to go through with publishing the Book Of Witness project, the real hard part followed. Deciding on four witness testimonies that I liked.

The first volume contains the stories of four Canyon County residents and their encounters with the weird. If you have read The Lies & Truth Of Doctor Desmond Brice (thank you!) you’ll recognize a few locations. Some of the characters may be familiar too.

The stories are not connected. Events take place more than a century apart in some instances. These stories are interrelated though, each offering a unique peek at the weird.

Whether that peek be at the tusk or tail.

The first volume of The Book Of Witness is due soon. Sign up to my email list for updates on where and when you can get your copy of the book.

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Episode #6: “The Lies & Truth Of Doctor Desmond Brice”

erick mertz, episode #6, the lies and truth of doctor desmond brice, supernatural fictionThe Lies & Truth Of Doctor Desmond Brice Episode #6 brings us another step closer to the end of our titular character’s misadventures. Thus far, I have avoided blogging about the publishing process.

As near as we are now though, I feel it’s a good time.

Bringing an episode of this novella out every week (or so, I get it…) has been a fun little adventure. But would I do it the same way again? Maybe.

Serial publishing is nice because it gives me, the writer and publisher, a chance at increased interaction. Writers are always complaining about not having enough relevant material to blog or write about to their audience. This process has given me an opportunity to introduce and discuss a piece of new work on a weekly basis. From readers, I have gotten the impression that this works too.

What serial publishing has done though is made me eager. I am really ready to have this whole book out. There has been so much getting ready and getting the book together that arriving at the end has felt too long.

Here we are though. Episode #6 “The Old Lie”. According to Doctor Desmond Brice, the last of his many lies. The next episode, the last in the ebook we discover the consequences of truth.

How Do I Get My Hands On The Novella?

Did I mention that this eBook is free?

Getting your eBook copy of The Lies & Truth of Doctor Desmond Brice could hardly be easier. Just fill out the form below to subscribe to my email list.

Once you subscribe, I’ll send you “Episode #1: The First Lie”. Every one of my subscribers will receive this plus each of the following episodes in this serially published novella.

When this novella is complete, it will stand as the prequel book to The Mask Of Tomorrow (tentatively scheduled for release January/February 2019… more on that) the first full-length novel in my series.

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Episode #5: “The Lies & Truth Of Doctor Desmond Brice”

erick mertz, supernatural fiction, episode #5, the lies and truth of doctor desmond briceA couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog confessing that Episode #4 took longer to release than expected. Well, in that case, the amount of time I took getting Episode #5 out and off my desk has been just plumb ridiculous.

I’ll blame the holidays, how’s that? I’m sure that you’ve heard that excuse before. But it’s true.

I spent last week with family down in balmy Carlsbad, California up the coast from San Diego. Once I got back home to Portland, I decided it was a good idea to take a few days to acclimate back to life in the normal lane.

Better never late, I know, but the episode is out just the same.

After Episode #5 “A Cover-Up” there are only two more episodes left. Best get writing, right?

What Happens In Episode #5?

In the most succinct possible terms, Episode #5 finds Doctor Desmond Brice face to face with a new foe. Anson Jeffs arrives on his doorstep with an offer that he claims Desmond cannot refuse.

Is there such a thing? Find out in Episode #5, “A Cover Up” the latest installment.

How Do I Get My Hands On The Novella?

Did I mention that this eBook is free?

Getting your eBook copy of The Lies & Truth of Doctor Desmond Brice could hardly be easier. Just fill out the form below to subscribe to my email list.

Once you subscribe, I’ll send you “Episode #1: The First Lie”. Every one of my subscribers will receive this plus each of the following episodes in this serially published novella.

When this novella is complete, it will stand as the prequel book to The Mask Of Tomorrow (tentatively scheduled for release January/February 2019… more on that) the first full-length novel in my series.

Sound interesting? Sign up today and receive this mailing list exclusive.

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Episode #4: “The Lies & Truth Of Doctor Desmond Brice”

erick mertz, the lies and truth of doctor desmond brice, free ebook, episode #4, supernatural fictionSo, the publication of “Episode #4” took me just a little bit longer to get out to my readers than I would have hoped.

Sorry folks. I missed the good Doctor Brice too.

Today is release day though. The latest, “Episode #4” of The Lies & Truth Of Doctor Desmond Brice will drop to all my loyal email list subscribers later on this afternoon.

This episode I’ve entitled, “Falsehood”.

And just so you don’t go thinking I was too indulgent with my  week away from publishing… I went out to Lake Chelan, Washington and got a lot of writing and novel plotting done with the good folks from Write On The River.

Also, Episode #4 features a brand new eBook cover. Anyone like this one better than the last? Leave me a comment below.

I have to say, I missed the process and I missed dropping eBooks in your email boxes.

Thank you for your patience… and enjoy.

How Do I Get My Hands On The Novella?:

Did I mention that this eBook is free?

Getting your eBook copy of The Lies & Truth of Doctor Desmond Brice could hardly be easier. Just fill out the form below to subscribe to my email list.

Once you subscribe, I’ll send you “Episode #1: The First Lie”. Every one of my subscribers will receive this plus each of the following episodes in this serially published novella.

When this novella is complete, it will stand as the prequel book to The Mask Of Tomorrow (tentatively scheduled for release January 2019… more on that) the first full-length novel in my series.

What Happens In Episode #4?:

Desmond Brice returns home from school for the Thanksgiving holiday in this episode. As you lovely readers have discovered, the good Doctor isn’t exactly a normal guy.

While most of us return to our home towns looking to reflect by the home fires, Desmond comes back seeking something else altogether. For Desmond, the idea of a home fire has an entirely different meaning altogether. In Episode #4, he is reminded of that.

Sound interesting? Sign up today and receive this mailing list exclusive.

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The Strange Air

Coming Soon!

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