Author: Joseph Macchiusi
Page count: 380
Genre: Apocalyptic fantasy-horror
Price: $14.99 USD
Born and raised in southern Ontario, I have worked as a librarian, historian, anthropologist, children’s activity programmer, tree-planter, landscaper, truck-driver, customer service rep, virtuoso air guitarist, teacher, naturalist, employment agency recruiter, metalhead, and anti-fundamentalist insurgent. I currently live and write in Newmarket and Haliburton, Ontario.
Tell us about your book:
The Betelgeuse Oracle is a survival tale about a guy named James Muir who is struggling to reunite with his wife and two young daughters in the midst of apocalyptic calamity. Trapped in a metropolis transformed into a burning, violent wasteland, he suffers bizarre visions. A mysterious Voice berates him in ancient Egyptian: he must embark on a quest to find something it calls ‘the Stone.’ Haunted by the erosion of his own sanity, hunted by gunmen, James joins a ragtag group of strangers desperate to survive. They must work together to escape the city. But what awaits them at the end of the arduous journey? The Stone has a fanatical will of its own. As strangers become friends and lovers, James realizes that even if the trek doesn’t kill him, he may not be strong enough to match its baffling power. The Betelgeuse Oracle is a sweeping saga of loss and heroism, mysticism and visceral horror. Reading this novel will change the way you see the world.
How long did it take to write the book?
It took about two years to produce a draft that didn’t suck, then another couple of years to edit that into a decent facsimile of an adventure story.
What inspired you to write the book?
I was inspired by a sudden vision that struck me while riding the GO bus home from work or university (I can’t remember which). Even as a drug- and booze-addled late adolescent, I knew that I must eventually make this vision come to pass. In terms of influences, I’d cite Stephen King, Iain Banks, Kurt Vonnegut, Cormac McCarthy, George Orwell, J.R.R. Tolkien, Irvine Welsh, and John Lydon.
Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?
My writing process involves setting aside whatever time I can during the evening (ie after paid work) and on weekends, aiming for about a thousand words per day. I don’t do a lot of detailed research, but rely on my nerdy pastime reading in the areas of ancient and modern history, social science, biology and physics. For this book, I did some reading and experiential research on firearms, ancient Egyptian mythology, the physical and emotional effects of starvation, supernovas, fencing (with swords, not chain-link), alchemy, and what it might be like to walk two hundred kilometers carrying everything on your back while eating only a handful of food per day.
What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?
I hope readers put down my book and gasp in astonishment at how strongly they are compelled to read more of my writing. Beyond that rich fantasy, I would very much like readers of this book to be entertained by the story and come away with a slightly different way of viewing the world around them. One of my favorite expressions is ‘The fish are the last to see the water.’ As much as possible, I want to make that water visible.
Where can we go to buy your book?
The book can be purchased through Amazon.com:
Any other links or info you’d like to share?
Please visit my website: josephmacchiusi.com
Excerpt from book:
James’s clothes, his hair, his skin, all clotted with ash. The dry dead skin of the fires. He began to imagine himself dissolving into ash. The wind carried the smell of rotting meat. The city beginning to give up its dead.
Tribe was gone for a long time. James dimly remembered telling him to go away. So he had, and now he was utterly alone.
Even the Voice in his mind, so infuriating, so terrifying, had now abandoned him.
He had just decided that Tribe was not coming back, not ever, when he first laid eyes on the Dog Man. At first he thought he must be dreaming. Or hallucinating. A corpulent body in filthy jeans and work boots, and a sleeveless undershirt stained with blood and grime. Capped by an oversized grey felt doggy head, like something from a team mascot’s costume. But the doggy face was odd – as if crafted by a demented child. Crooked red eyes, one a triangle, the other a crude oval, with white pinpricks for pupils. And a jagged oblong mouth, filled with teeth that would have been more at home in a hippopotamus. All square-tipped, like thick human molars, but again crooked, misshapen.
In one hairy fist the Dog Man carried a pump-action shotgun. Shuffling drunkenly through the wreckage, boots crunching broken glass, kicking aside a bent kitchen chair and chunks of scorched drywall. One of the plastic spade-shaped doggy ears bent halfway, bobbing with each oafish stride.
Watching the Dog Man from behind, James was seized by the first emotion he’d felt since that morning except numbed misery. An irrational, hot fear, the near-painful certainty that this creature – this thing – must be evaded at any cost.
As quietly as he could, grappling his pack, he eased his ass off the foundation, hopping down into the pit. Scarcely breathing, he searched for a hiding spot, hearing the Dog Man’s assured boots coming closer, closer.
He crawled into a precarious teepee of blackened joists, finally having to roll over, edge in legs first. Desperate now, wincing as his foot clunked against metal debris. Yanking the pack in behind himself.
The distorted dog face appeared over the edge of the foundation. James froze. Face to face now. Nothing between them but the feeble cindered beams of the teepee.
Please lord don’t let him see me.
His lips formed the prayer silently. Shivering with his pounding heart. The Dog Man stared down. Those wicked pinpricked pupils alert, white hot. James swore he saw the grimy felt snout twitching. Wiggling whiskers like plastic dry spaghetti. No sound but the asthmatic breath of fly wings, dozens of them clustering on the blood-stained undershirt.
James’s eyes rolled with the Dog Man as it shuffled around the foundation. Hefting the big pump action, it fired. The blast smashed the wreckage. Charcoal sifted onto James’s neck.
The Dog Man behind James now, where he couldn’t see it. To James, his own breath a dead giveaway. Hiccuping with fear that stabbed his bladder. Sure he would piss himself.
The pump action cracked. A shell rattled down. Another blast. Rolling, echoing. Something sharp fell on James’s left calf. A third shot, a fourth.
What the hell was it doing? Trying to flush him out?
As it came around to the front again, James pressed his chin into the ashes. Please, please, please his mortified mind begged.
He noticed the red heart tattoo on the Dog Man’s broad right forearm. Frowned quizzically. That saying of Mrs. Gritzner’s: synchronicity, the language of God. But what god had conjured this?
Then he saw something that froze his mind in a crushing singularity of terror. He bit his lip to stop himself from crying out.
Around the bottom edge of the dog head. Crudely sewn stitches. Thick, bloody. They might be leather thongs. Stretched tight between ragged holes in the dog head and the hideously stretched skin of the neck.
It can’t be, he thought. It’s impossible. It can’t be!
And yet it was. Bloody holes teeming with flies.