First off, I live in California and write dark fiction set here. I like to mix genres, usually noir and something more fantastic. My main series is an urban fantasy-noir. I like my coffee similar, usually black, but sometimes with a bit of flavored cream.
MM: What do you love most about writing? What speaks to you?
JC: I’m just a creative person in general. I love telling stories too, I actually decided to be a writer at a pretty young age and I’ve been dancing with the dream every since. Until recently, I just self-published a novella and I loved it. The whole process was thrilling and amazing, and more than a little scary. It’s just my calling, I guess. Meant to craft tales.
MM: So, what have you written?
JC: My second novella, Tybalt Perdition is coming out on Thursday. The start of the Glass Fate series. Dark urban fantasy stories centering Caldyr Prayers, a fairy detective in California. I also indie-published a novella called Crane.Wife: A Cyberpunk Tale. It’s about a young couple living off love, and little else, in the year 2187.
MM: When did you know writing was for you?
JC: Already touched on this, but I just felt like it was my calling. I learned to read pretty young, and I consumed every book I could find. One day I was walking home from school, I missed the bus, and I just decided I wanted to. I’ve spent a lot of time dealing with inadequacy and other feelings, but I decided it was now or never a while back. I joined a few writing sites and went to work getting better.
MM: What are you working on at this minute? What was the inspiration for it?
JC: At this exact moment, I’m drafting a story about a shootist (the proper old west term for gunslinger) being hired to protect a honey farm. Uh, I saw Tombstone and I wanted to write a story about a laudanum addicted female shootist being hired by a sexy, innocent, young male farmer. Truthfully, it’s hard to tell where my ideas come from. They’re a mish-mash, normally with a girl at the center.
MM: What was the first story you ever remember writing, and what was it about? How does it compare to your writing now?
JC: It was a Harry Potter fanfic, about Sirius’ long lost son dating Hermione. It was a little weird and not very good. I’m weird, but better now. Probably not a correlation there, but maybe some relation. I’ve learned a lot since then.
MM: Do you work to an outline or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you? Plotter or Pantser?
JC: Combination. I do character work and worldbuilding, but the majority is pantsed. Especially the plot. I’m working on my skills, so what I do is random. Fits me though. “Flying by the seat of my pants” is pretty much my motto.
MM: What draws you to flash-fiction, to #FP? What do you love and hate about it?
JC: I like to explore metaphors, and try to tell complex tales by playing off emotions rather than details. It’s a strange, fun way to tell a story. Also I just like shorts, and #FP is a lot of fun. I like seeing all the samples of various voices and creative disciplines.
MM: Who are your writing inspirations? How do they influence your creativity?
JC: Biggest inspiration is probably Stephen King. Not necessarily his stories, although I do love them, but his drive and creativity. I want to do that, so I write 2k a day like him. Neil Gaiman, Christopher Moore, JK Rowling, and Barry Hughart are huge favorites too.
MM: What is your favorite motivational phrase or musing on writing, and why? What about it really hits home?
JC: “You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star,” by Nietzsche. Not someone I normally read, but I find the quote to be both apt and beautiful. Also a little telling, writing is dramatic and freeing to me and I believe that the best stories are ones where the writers let themselves go.
MM: What is the hardest thing about writing for you?
JC: Uh, not a lot. I need to work on my grammar and connections. My stories could be tighter woven with the worlds I build. Taking my time, I jump the shark a lot.
MM: What do you tell yourself every time it gets hard? Every time the stars stop aligning? What do you do when writer’s block knocks on your creative door?
JC: That I have goals, and that I’ve done a lot already. It’s all just steps on a journey and I’m making the trip. I’m very driven to do this author thing and I just rarely find myself unable to write. When I do, I pick up the keyboard and get to it anyway. Can’t stop now, I’m going to be the best.
MM. Do you have any secret and wacky writing rituals that help the words flow?
JC: I sing along with my music, or lip sync. Get up and happy, in the zone. Long as I’m excited, I can draft fast and the story flows. Lots of editing, but I’m growing to love that too.
MM: What advice would you give to aspiring writers and poets, anyone who wants to free the art within? What helped you make it to this point?
JC: First off, seek out friends who write. Even just a few people online can make a huge difference, support is invaluable. Secondly, go for it. Name your goals, and then chase them. Gotta know what you want to do and then you should go for it. Dreams are meant to be chased.
MM: What genres do you find yourself most drawn to? In your books and in your #FP’s?
JC: Darker fiction of all types. Fantasy is a favorite, but I’ll read most anything anyway.
MM: Sooo … reading anything good lately? Any recommendations?
JC: I recently finished the Welcome to Night Vale novel, and I love the podcast. Besides that, I enjoy a lot of short stories and I’ve been going through a few Year’s Best anthologies. I’ve also been rereading the Harry Potter series. On book two and loving it all over again.
MM: Any last thoughts for our readers?
JC: Uh, I want to say something sparky and inspiring, but nothing sounds right. Just love out loud and speak for yourself. You and your voice are more important than mere words can say.
MM: How can readers discover more about you and you work?
By John Cordial
Casey crushed the paper between his fingers, loosening the stiff parchment colored piece to make rolling easier.
He’d started in Kansas with a simple mission: carry an envelope to San Francisco. The gunman didn’t normally take delivery work, but for the price they offered Casey would change his name to Pony Express.
With care he reached into the leather pouch, drawing out a pinch of the fading tobacco supply. Only two more rolls remained for the rest of this trip, about a hundred miles he figured. Not near enough, but he’d been smoking a lot. Just nerves from the road, more than from the plume of smoke that he’d seen a few times behind him. Certainly not from the simple envelope with the wax seal that weighed heavier with each thump of horse hooves.
A few flecks of tobacco blew away in a breeze and Casey threw a curse to the wind itself. He turned in his saddle to shield the remaining shreds.
He leaned close to lick the gummed edge and the strong dark scent filled the gunmen’s nose. His mouth watered, eager for the touch of release warm smoke provided. Cigarette sealed tight, he stuck the end in his mouth. The matchbox was in his hand when the shot rang out.
Heat ripped into his back, the horse bucked, rushing from under Casey and the whole spun around him. A hard root caught his fall, his head cracked into the tree, and one leg crunched under him. His vision blurred, time moved in slow jerks.
The gunman’s hand still gripped tight around the matchbook. Wheezing caught his good ear, Casey’s own breathing. Bullet musta passed through a lung. He’d seen a dozen or more men die from the same wound in the war and wished the shooter had better aim.
A dark shadow filled his Casey’s vision. He ignored the shooter and pushed the box open, drawing a single stick. A flick and sulfur filled the air. He put the match to the end of the cigarette still clamped hard in his lips.
“Would’ve given you a machine rolled,” a voice said.
Before Casey could reply another bark of fire.
Nine years and one day later he took a drag. Spectral lungs still burned with peace after the long draw. Sweet relief numbed him further into the painless sea of apathetic haunting.
Casey’s sense of smell worked okay. Taste came and went, fading without reason, but the cigarette always burned. The phantom gunman smoked in peace for years under his tree, before the new world grew around him.
Just a road at first, but concrete started everything these days. Casey stared at the lake for years through the trees in the distance. They cleared the trees, centuries old redwoods, in a few days. Now houses sprang up around the water, cabins and then a hotel. He’d never even dreamed of the vehicles that passed by him, or the speed of the boats skimming the lake.
In time a store came. More houses and a sheriff’s station followed. The law and he never saw eye-to-eye in his life. But the station ended up five feet from his tree, and quickly became a welcome entertainment to the gunman. Day after day the lawmen shared old lies and new gossip on the porch of the little brick station.
Times really got going when the cement factory opened. Almost overnight the vacant lot next to the store became a butcher, and then a deli by the end of the decade. Houses and workmen filled the town, playing at the lake on weekends with kids who had to bus to the school a few towns over.
A bar. Just the one, but then another. Casey never saw them, just heard the gossip and then the calls to the sheriff started.
More cars filled the streets, he enjoyed the variety picking up the specifics on a lot of them from a young officer he watched die in the lake one night. Kid messed around with the sheriff’s wife and ended up forced into a drunken swim. Never stood a chance in February.
Years and decades spun into each other, a new store took the old general’s place. The deli closed for a few years, opening up and closing again so often Casey’d swear the space was cursed if he didn’t know better.
Green leaves turned orange one final time before the county decided the sheriff’s office lacked parking.
A rumble approached from the east, shaking the root he’d rested on for a hundred years. A truck with white lettering on the side parked in front of the tree. A shovel went right through his skull. No pain reached the ghost, just an odd longing for his old hat. Not the one he died with, that one still sat on his ghostly noggin’, the one before that. Missed the wider brim.
“Goddammit.” The cigarette hanging from his lip bounced as he cursed.
Casey sighed, enjoying the rustle of leaves before home became toothpicks and a bonfire the idiots almost burned down the station with. They found his pistol and everything he died with save for the letter, bastard that shot him musta taken it. Figured the first well paying job all year would get him killed. Just his luck around then, his first bad year in a while.
The only upside was the gunmen could walk around town. His grave desecrated, he was free to haunt wherever he chose. He started with the bar and found a new home in the neon lights.
Cold beer and hard whiskey scented the air, considerably better than road fumes. Casey settled on a seat at the end, leaning against the wall and watching the world unfold around him. Wisps of fine tobacco smoke curled into the air, his old cigarette, the musty scent forever the barman’s companion.
The bar’s other patron’s dramas and downfalls and dreams engrossed the gunmen. An afterlife of entertainment swirled through the little town, the chaotic center located somewhere around either the pool tables or two small booths at the back. Sometimes the louder ones took place at the bar, but Casey preferred the quiet ones.
The bar’s saddest cases got a silent tilt of his hat and a few drawled words of advice they never heard.
Greta started slinging booze in the fall, some time after Casey took up his post. Her skin looked amber under the bars orange lights, the gray of her eyes took on smoky hue. For a month after she started, every tongue wagged behind her shapely back. Desire swirled through the small bar; lust, longing, and other attentions filled her tip jar.
She tended bar for a pleasant four months, before whatever happened. Casey never asked and she never offered.
One night the blonde woman shut down the bar and the police showed up a few days later. Once more she became the town’s favorite subject. Eventually they arrested a regular and Casey spent some time around the lake.
In spring, the gunmen resumed his sentinel at the end seat. The bartender returned a few years later. Her shimmering hair hung loose, and slightly bloodstained, around her pale shoulders. She took the seat next to him, pouring a shot from a spectral bottle.
If Casey’s presence in the bar surprised Greta he could never tell. Her smoky eyes never showed more than a subtle hint of the ghost boozeslinger’s odd humor. She poured generous though, and her smile was more so.
No one ever used the last two seats at the bar. On some nights, the bartenders would hear a soft laugh, or smell the hint of smoke in the tobacco free area. In the darkest, they might catch a glimpse of the saloon’s spirits, locked forever in their phantom vices.