“This Godless Apprenticeship”: Weirdbook Magazine, #40

Just noticed that editor, Douglas Draa, has announced the release of Weirdbook #40, which includes my story, “This Godless Apprenticeship.”

Weirdbook no. 40, J. Florencio

Weirdbook #40, Cover Art by J. Florêncio

Though obviously dictated by a narrative’s shape of and the dynamic demands of the characters therein, my accustomed, rhythmic (first-draft) product clocks in around eight- to ten-thousand words; and while I can certainly contort the constraints of these pieces, I often have trouble finding suitable word-count venues.

I was sketching several stories at the time (each having subsequently gained both their intended dimension and fulfillment in publication), but—due to the period-period backdrop of the seventeenth century—took a digressive detour with this one. “This Godless Apprenticeship” is a pirate story (a first for me), and while it’s a shorter tale than I’m used to (just short of 5K words), it was a self-imposed challenge to infuse as much historic research as I could into its saltwater-eaten frame.

Captain Kidd, Pyle

Captain Kidd, by Howard Pyle

The story begins with my quartermaster, Thomas Ware, conducting nightwork for his trade-calloused superior, Captain John Lacewage, aboard the aptly named brigantine, The Gaggler Coach. It was a fun one to write, and like most tales of this variety, I learned quite a bit (more, certainly, than the brief yarn reflects).

The “set list” for Weirdbook #40 follows:


From the Editor’s Tower, by Doug Draa


“Iconoclasm,” by Adrian Cole

“Have a Crappy Halloween,” by Franklyn Searight

“Early Snow,” by Samson Stormcrow Hayes

“The Dollhouse,” by Glynn Owen Barrass

“Elle a Vu un Loup,” by Loren Rhoads

“Bringing the Bodies Home,” by Christian Riley

“Restored,” by Marlane Quade Cook

“Nameless and Named,” by David M. Hoenig

“Playing A Starring Role,” by Paul Lubaczewski

“And the Living is Easy,” by Mike Chinn

“The Prague Relic,” by Paul StJohn Mackintosh

“The Circle,” by Matt Sullivan

“Sanctuary,” by John Linwood Grant

“The Giving of Gifts,” by Matt Neil Hill

“The Santa Anna,” by Jack Lothian

“The Dread Fishermen,” by Kevin Henry

“Blind Vision,” by Andrew Darlington

“The Thirteenth Step,” by William Tea

“This Godless Apprenticeship,” by Clint Smith

“Waiting,” by John W. Dennehy

“Pouring Whiskey In My Soul,” by Paul R. McNamee

“True Blue,” by Darrell Schweitzer

“The Treadmill,” by Rohit Sawant

“The Veiled Isle,” by W. D. Clifton


“Gila King,” by Jessica Amanda Salmonson

“Necro-Meretrix,” by Frederick J. Mayer

“Grinning Moon,” by Frederick J. Mayer

“The Burning Man,” by Russ Parkhurst

“Silent Hours,” by Russ Parkhurst

“The Old White Crone,” by Maxwell Gold

Douglas Draa and his partners at Wildside Press create a top-notch product (back in September, 2018, Draa’s What October Brings: A Lovecraftian Celebration of Halloween, which he edited, secured a standing at #15 among Amazon’s best sellers in the Horror Anthology category), and you can be confident the stories contained in this volume have been handled with equally trenchant attention.

Snag a copy here: Weirdbook Magazine, Issue #40.

pyle, plank

“Walking the Plank,” Howard Pyle

Scare The Dickens Out of Us, 2011

“Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me?”

The truth is, that he tried to be smart, as a means of distracting his own attention, and keeping down his terror; for the spectre’s voice disturbed the very marrow of his bones.”

A Christmas Carol, Stave I, “Marley’s Ghost”

A little over a year ago, I had an idea for a ghost story.  This was around Halloween, several weeks after the birth of my daughter, Everly, in September, 2010.  After driving Jack down to the bus stop one overcast, October morning, I had in mind a vivid scenario:  Autumn.  Night.  Clouds, like shreds of moth-eaten cloth, overlapping a fingernail moon.  A boy (I didn’t really know what age, I saw him as being seven, maybe eight years old) standing next to his father (or stepdad) in a weed-spiked yard near a black and abandoned farmhouse.  Without warning—and to the father’s slow-reacting horror—the boy bolts forward, running across the overgrown lot, rushing headlong toward the looming, decaying structure.

That was it, really.  The germ of an idea—“the fragments of reality,” Dickens wrote of his dreams, “I…collect which helped to make it up.”  I had a narrative notion about where the tale would begin, but I really didn’t know how it would end.  And although I scribbled a satisfying conclusion later that winter, I had no idea about what to do with the story.  It seemed too understated and “serious” to pursue hardcore horror markets, and too darkly fantastic for the scrupulous eyes of literary publications.  I was lost and a little uneasy about how the story’s story would end.

Until yesterday.

I’m happy to announce that my short story, “Dirt on Vicky,” is the first-place winner of the 2011 “Scare The Dickens Out of Us” ghost story competition.  An official announcement will be made by contest coordinators, Gretchen Rix and Roxanne Rix, next weekend at “A Dickens Christmas in Lockhart” festival.  The story will then be read at a public party at the Eugene Clark Library in Lockhart, Texas, on January 21, 2012.

In addition to a monetary prize, I’ll also receive a trophy.  Not too shabby.

I’ll have more news about what’s next for this story.  In the meantime, I’d like to recommend some of my all-time favorite horror stories—some horror, some ghost yarns, a few quiet classics.  But all guaranteed to be bone-chilling reading for a spooky winter’s evening.

  • “The River Styx Runs Upstream”; “Iverson’s Pits”; Summer of Night; A Winter Haunting; and Drood by Dan Simmons
  • The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
  • “The Ghostly Rental”; “The Jolly Corner”; and The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
  • The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
  • “Young Goodman Brown” and “The Birthmark” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • “Best New Horror”; “The Black Telephone”; “20th Century Ghost”; and Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
  • “The Bees” by Dan Chaon
  • “The Great God Pan” by Arthur Machen
  • They Thirst by Robert McCammon
  • “N.” by Stephen King
  • “The Whisperer in the Darkness” and “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” by HP Lovecraft
  • “Canavan’s Back Yard” by Joseph Payne Brennan

As always, dear reader, thank you for your camaraderie and support.