Thursday, February 26, 2015

Interview & Giveaway: The Curse Servant by J.P. Sloan

UFI welcomes Author J.P. Sloan. Thanks for Joining us!!

What can you tell my readers about yourself that they might not know from looking on your bio or reading in another interview? 

Well, let's just toss all propriety out the window, shall we, and talk religion? I write a lot about modern occultism, and a considerable portion of the Dark Choir mythos is grounded in both western hermeticism and Gnosticism. So, the question often presents itself: "Is J.P. Sloan an occultist?" Here's the short answer: "Not any more."

Here's the somewhat longer answer… I was once a regular practitioner of a kind of syncretic homespun neo-paganism. Which is to say, our group cobbled together the bits and pieces of Gardnerian Wicca, Seax Wicca, Asatru, Druidism, and whatever the hell else we felt made sense to us at the moment… and met at regular intervals (read: every lunar cycle) for a kind of celebration of Nature, ancestors, gods, whatever we felt like celebrating and/or worshipping. This group was very loose in its construct, and we encouraged individual research into esoteric thought. Here's where I stumbled across Hermes Trismegistus, Aleister Crowley, Anton LaVey, Margot Adler, Frank and Janet Ferrar, and other writers and mythological constructs of the neo-pagan oeuvre. (lookin' at you, Hermes…) I was a dyed-in-the-wool pagan for a quite a while, but later in years I've come to accept the inherent absurdity in all mystical schools of thought, and have embraced a kind of rugged rationalism as my chosen cosmology.

I still take time to observe sabbats, and I still have an altar in my home to the sun and moon… but I recognize that the human experience is one of biochemistry and consequence of actions. Besides… I challenge anyone to spend any considerable time viewing the Hubble Deep Field image without feeling staggeringly small yet invaluable at the same time.

What do you enjoy doing on your down time? 

I spend several nights per week at the local gym with my wife, beating the fear of God into a heavy bag. We've both studied martial arts at separate times in our respective pasts, and nothing spells marital bliss quite like "M-U-A-Y-T-H-A-I."

I'm also a homebrewer and a BJCP National ranked beer judge. I travel to homebrew competitions and evaluate people's beers according to style and off-flavors, giving advice as to how to improve their recipes or processes. It's a thankless job, but someone's got to drink all this damned beer…

What is your Favorite part of writing? 

Typing the last sentence of a first draft. Sure… it's fated to endure nigh-endless editing and revision. Sure… any first draft you write will be a handful of ocelot offal. But that moment where a book goes from "am writing" to "written" is magical.

Do you have any certain routines you must follow as you write? 

I have a day job (for the moment), and my family enjoys ongoing proof that I yet exist… thus my daily writing time tends to fall after bedtime for Homeslice Jr and XBox time with the wife. The good news being that my wife joins me in this insane pursuit of literary distraction… she's another author, recently signed by my publisher. We tend to coordinate writing times, and often abscond on Friday mornings to a local Panera for a slam session of word count hijinks.

What are some of your Favorite books or Authors in the Urban Fantasy/ Paranormal Genres? 

Though I certainly admire Kim Harrison for her world-building and the sheer amount of time she devotes to her fans, I find that her style doesn't quite reach me. Pound-for-pound, I'd say Richard Kadrey is one of the sharpest minds in Urban Fantasy today. His Sandman Slim series is prime reading for both genders.

How would you pitch The Dark Choir series to someone who has not heard of it before?

The Dark Choir is a series of occult thrillers set in modern Baltimore, which follow the life of Dorian Lake, a socialite and hex-peddler who walks a fine and dangerous line between the daylight of our world and the soul-damning underbelly of the practitioners of ancient and forbidden arts.

Can you tell us a little bit about the world that The Curse Servant is set in? 

It's modern Baltimore as anyone would see it… but with a sinister underworld of old ancient hermetic practices held in basements, and cursed objects sold in stalls down dark alleys. I really strive to play my fantasy close to the chest, the magic as easily dismissed as coincidence or luck as anything else.

Do you have a favorite scene in The Curse Merchant

In The Curse Servant, Dorian is in a race against some nameless entity that physically possesses the bodies of people around him, taunting him about his losing his soul. My favorite scene involves a young girl who is taken over by this entity… a real homage to the old-school demon possession movies of the seventies. My take here is that everything she's going through can be, and is in fact, dismissed as schizophrenia, and Dorian has to fight as hard with her mother to seek unconventional treatment as he does against this being that he can't even identify.

Which one character out of all your books was your favorite to write about? What about the hardest to write about? 

I adore writing Edgar Swain. He's based on a real-life acquaintance of mine… one of the brewers in my local homebrewing club. It's easy to slip into his persona, and his entire family is really showcased in The Curse Servant.

The hardest character to write was Ches, Dorian's new love interest. I wanted to take her character a full one-eighty from Carmen in the first book. She's up front, non-manipulative, somewhat naïve, and presents Dorian with a gentler kind of ego-deflation. I wanted to preserve her agency as much as possible, which was difficult as she was filtered through the eyes of a protagonist with immense privilege and entitlement issues.

What Other Projects can we look forward to reading from you? 

I'm revising and polishing a western/horror titled Yea Though I Walk. It's more of a straight take on classic horror elements… essentially Vampires vs. Wendigo vs. Cowboys. I adored writing it, even though it was my most ambitious novel yet.

J.P. Sloan is a speculative fiction author ... primarily of urban fantasy, horror and several shades between. His writing explores the strangeness in that which is familiar, at times stretching the limits of the human experience, or only hinting at the monsters lurking under your bed.

A Louisiana native, Sloan relocated to the vineyards and cow pastures of Central Maryland after Hurricane Katrina, where he lives with his wife and son. During the day he commutes to the city of Baltimore, a setting which inspires much of his writing.

In his spare time, Sloan enjoys wine-making and homebrewing, and is a certified beer judge.

Find J.P. and his books

The Curse Servant
The Dark Choir #2

The one person standing between Hell… and an innocent girl… is a man without a soul.

A regular life isn’t in the cards for Dorian Lake, but with his charm-crafting business invigorated, and the prospect of a serious relationship within his grasp, life is closer to normal than Dorian could ever expect. In the heat of the Baltimore mayoral campaign, Dorian has managed to balance his arrangements with Deputy Mayor Julian Bright with his search to find his lost soul. Dorian soon learns of a Netherworker, the head of a dangerous West Coast cabal, who might be able to find and return his soul. The price? Just one curse.

Sounds easy… but nothing ever is for Dorian. A dark presence arrives in the city, hell-bent on finding Dorian’s soul first. Innocents are caught in the crossfire, and Dorian finds it harder to keep his commitments to Bright. When the fight gets personal, and the entity hits too close to home, Dorian must rely on those he trusts the least to save the ones he loves. As he tests the limits of his hermetic skills to defeat this new enemy, will Dorian lose his one chance to avoid damnation?

I knew this wasn't going to be the typical meeting with Julian Bright when, instead of the usual political organ-grinders at the campaign headquarters, I found a soccer mom duct taped to a chair, foaming at the mouth. Her grunting and growling echoed off the bare sheetrock walls of Julian's office, vacant except for the three of us.

I peeked through the blinds covering the locked storefront to make sure none of volunteers were back from the morning rounds. Satisfied we were alone, I turned to Julian.

He waved his arm at the woman in a lazy circle. "So, this is why I called."

"Who is she?"

"Her name is Amy Mancuso. You know her?"

I shook my head.

"She's a volunteer. Her team was working Cold Spring by Loyola when she started swearing and spitting at the residents. By the time her team captain called me, she'd kicked someone's dog. Terrier, I think. Or one of those purse dogs."

I winced. "Remind me not to hand out yard signs for you. Jesus."

"It's not like we do background checks on volunteers. I figured she probably missed some meds or something."

"But you called me instead of the paramedics."


"Why?" I asked as I took a step toward her.

Amy's grunting halted as she straightened in her chair. Her head swiveled slowly in my direction, and her eyes sent the creeping chills up my neck.

With a nerve-rattling tone she growled, "Is that Dorian Lake I smell?"

I'd never enjoyed the sound of my own name less.

Julian turned a shoulder to me and whispered, "That's why."


I slowly approached Amy, pulling my pendulum from my jacket pocket in a slow, non-threatening motion. Last thing I needed at that moment was to send a crazy person into a panic. I assumed she was crazy. My pendulum would determine whether she was unnaturally energized or the usual cat-shaving flavor of lunatic.

Her eyes were dilated; her mouth twisted into the most unsettling smile one could imagine on the face of an otherwise average woman.

"Have we met?"

"Poor little Dorian lost his soul."

Okay, this was probably a legitimate problem.

I dangled the pendulum in front of Amy. The little nugget of copper spun from the end of its chain in a perfectly Newtonian fashion. Nothing pulled it contrary to the laws of Nature. I couldn't even feel a tug on the chain.

She continued, "Lost his soul, he lost his soul. Dropped it down a rabbit hole."

"I suppose you think you're being clever?"

"Is he doomed or is he dead? Will he damn your soul instead?"

This conversation had lost all of its charm.

"Who am I talking to?"

She sucked in a huge gulp of air and craned her neck at a painful angle toward the ceiling. A sick squealing noise leaked from her lips as her arms trembled. When she finally released her breath and sank back down into her chair, she simply chuckled.

"We're going to find it, you know. And when we do, we're going to eat it."

I leaned in as close as I dared and whispered, "If you think I'm afraid of you, then you need to know something. I'm not impressed."

"It won't be long now."

"Did someone send you, or is this just a courtesy call?"

She smirked. "We're going to enjoy this."

I was knitting together a clever response when a loud rip of tape crackled through the room. Her hand slammed up underneath my jaw, fingers clamping around my throat. My head filled with blood, and I tried to cough through the gag reflex. The harder I beat on her hand to let go, the wider that creepy smile got.

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