Today, I am pleased to be part of Jonathan D. Allen's Pathways of the Dead Tour. Pathways is the second novel--The Corridors of the Dead being the first--in Allen's "Among the Dead" series. Jonathan is here to share an excerpt from that book and some insights into his creative process and more. There's even an international giveaway!
See all the tour stops here. The tour was coordinated through Dark World Books.
Pathways of the Dead
(Among the Dead #2)
Matty doesn’t want to end the world. Unfortunately, she has no choice.
Through a series of harrowing events, Matty DiCamillo discovered that she is the heir to an ancient prophecy, destined to destroy her own reality to save countless others. Now she finds herself locked away and interrogated by beings known as the Aetelia, who are out to force the apocalypse to their liking. After a breathless escape and an attack by the band of rebel Aetelia known as the Watchers, Matty must not only cross worlds but time itself to elude capture and face her destiny on her own terms. Aided by her lover Kristy; Tommy, a man trapped in a boy’s body; and an ageless woman named Omarosa; she must face death itself to reach the City of the Dead.
Grabbe tried to speak, but the back of his throat had been, coated by some substance that seemed to hold his vocal cords in place.
Jazshael reached into his coat pocket. “Well, I’m glad you’re awake. Wouldn't want you to miss all the fun.” He produced a full syringe, its needle sparkling in the low light of what he assumed to be Jazshael's new lab.
Grabbe cleared his throat, cutting away some of the gunk from the back of his throat. He knew Jazshael; engagement would be the only path to keep from getting jabbed with that needle.
“What…what are you doing with me?”
Jazshael glanced toward something off to Grabbe’s left; no doubt some mechanical monstrosity just out of Grabbe’s line of sight. “Something glorious, my friend. You can count on that. And don’t worry that your uhm…” He twirled a finger around the circumference of his head. “…sacrifice, that it will be wasted.”
Sacrifice. Not the kind of language you wanted to hear around Jazshael. It usually meant that he’d singled you out for some sort of experiment, some “great leap in evolution.” Grabbe’s stomach twisted and he strained against his bonds. As he did so, lances of pain shot through his body from every place where the cables pierced his flesh. He cried out, going slack almost immediately.
Jazshael frowned. “Oh, come on, I expect that from creatures way less than you. Struggling, pain, it doesn’t become you, I’m afraid.”
Grabbe had no reply – he found himself lost in a world of pain.
Jazshael went on. “You know, I’m glad it came down to this. You of all people know what’s going on here, you, my friend…you get the calculus. You always did.”
“That’s why I left,” Grabbe gasped.
“Yeah, about that.” Jazshael frowned. “That kind of thinking got you into this mess in the first place. You never did have the stomach to do what it took to move things forward. Unfortunate character flaw, really.”
Grabbe shook his head, wincing as another pain shot through his neck. “Samyaza has what it takes to move things forward. You think he’s the wave of the future?”
Jazshael slammed his left fist against the wall and stormed toward Grabbe, jabbing his free index finger at him. “Don’t. Don’t you do that. You know how I feel about him.”
Some things never changed. “So why are you here? I thought he kicked you out.”
The Aetelia chuckled, the light in his eyes shining pure insanity. “Of course he did. What else was he going to do, keep around a blatant threat to his status quo? No, no. And then once he’d kicked me out, he got it into his thick skull that he could create his own bioweapons. Can you believe that?”
It took Grabbe a moment to realize that Jazshael expected a reply, and a coherent one at that. He mustered up the best response that he could. “Why would he do that?”
“Good question. You know about London, right? All the crap that went down there before all this began?”
“I know a little bit.” Word about Samyaza’s disaster had traveled fast. The Watchers had built up a network of worldwide followers in the closing years of World War II, channeling just enough energy to slip the bonds of their Aethyric prison and aid their many worshippers. Rumor had it that a human insurgency had sprung up and battled the Watcher operation in London during the Summer of 2011. The Watchers had won at last, but Samyaza lost his eye in the process.
Jazshael nodded. “I figured. Always had the pulse, you did.” He straightened up, smirking. “Here’s the funny thing. So he and his people, he and his goons, they’re looking for the perfect subject to turn into a bioweapon. They have no idea what they’re looking for, though. Maybe a tunneler, like your Chosen One? Maybe shoot people up with a virus and turn them into monsters. So inelegant,” he said, and snorted. “But get this – the dumb bastard stumbles across a Class A Folder. You know what those are, right?”
Grabbe shook his head. “Should I?”
Jazshael slapped the back of his head. “You never did pay attention to me. Naughty boy. Get up to the curve, man. Folders can – you know – fold reality. Create life. You think tunnelers are something?” He scoffed. “They’re nothing next to these Folders. And they’re volatile too – the Folders, I mean. There are so few and every single one of them seems to implode and end up dead before you know it. So anyway, this genius – I’m talking about Samyaza here, you know – decides he’s going to turn a Folder into a fucking bioweapon. I know, right?” he said, and laughed.
Jazshael began to pace now, gesticulating with the hand that held the syringe. “I mean, it’s like…what is he thinking? He didn’t even try to consult me. Could I have done anything with her? I don’t know, but I’ll tell you this.” He drew close, and Grabbe could smell the rank sweetness on his breath. “Even I know not to play with that kind of fire, friend.” He scratched his head, almost jabbing himself with the needle. “You know that, right?”
“I do,” Grabbe said. Jazshael had always been prone to these rants, with severe injury or worse for those who dared interrupt. Grabbe saw no need to worsen things.
“So this is real funny. Wait ‘til you hear this. Eventually the Folder gets away, so they create a clone and try to turn this clone into their perfect weapon. They make all kinds of mistakes. There’s this…this…genetic waste left over. Sentient genetic waste, mind you. And get this,” he said, and grinned. “One of those mistakes? She damn near killed the bastard. Can you believe that shit?”
Grabbe found himself genuinely astonished. Had Samyaza lost the plot? Jazshael clearly had his drawbacks – Grabbe had a sick feeling he would find out a whole lot more about that soon – but objectively, the move had made no sense for the Watcher, especially given the danger of these bioweapons. “Why would he do that?”
Jazshael clapped his hands twice. “Thank you! That’s what I said. Why would you do such a thing? I mean, what are you, crazy?” He erupted into peals of manic laughter that rang off the walls. “I’m out of my damned mind, and I wouldn’t do that.” Another laugh, and he wiped his eyes. “Anywho, so everybody knows that he lost his eye during that mess in London, right?”
“Total lie. Complete fabrication, he, uh…well, I mean, it was that piece of waste. That half-folder. Crazy shit is what I’m trying to tell you here. And Samyaza thought he could replace me. This Watcher, who thought he could replace me, did this. Can you believe that?” That’s genius at work, my friend. After that mess, Samyaza is so desperate he comes to me, tells me ‘I need you to revive the program.’ We need to go full on ahead, since the Reckoning is coming and we can take the Watchtowers, maybe run the show after all. I figure I’ll play along. I mean, why not, what loss is there for me? I can become my own free agent. And he has to pay me.” He laughed and then wagged his finger. “But I’m not a Watcher anymore. Oh, no. Don’t think that.”
“I wouldn’t make that mistake.” What little energy Grabbe still possessed drained out of him, as if the cables sucked it from his flesh. Good. Maybe unconsciousness would simply overtake him before Jazshael did.
Jazshael chuckled. “Good. Because I’m going to give this organization a kick in the ass. I am the Aetelia to do it. And you, my friend,” he said, approaching him and waving the needle, “You are the instrument of Samyaza’s destruction. I mean, how fucking beautiful is that? Don’t tell me you wouldn’t like to get him back for what he did to poor little Anushka all those years ago.”
The words struck right to Grabbe’s core. “And if I don’t want to?” Grabbe would have sworn the words were barely audible. The energy drain and the pain evoked by Anushka’s name had conspired to push him further into darkness. He had to press every word out with a concentrated effort.
Jazshael’s mouth hung open; in another situation, Grabbe might have laughed. “Buh…wuh…what kind of answer is that? Why wouldn’t you want to be? If Anushka doesn’t work, then look what he did to your fucking family or the Watchers. Remember what we were supposed to be? We were supposed to help those people. He did that. He did that to our. Fucking. People.” He punctuated each of the last three words with hard blows to his own chest. “It demands death. It demands a strong leader, because I tell you what, when that Reckoning comes around, if…if we’re out there with our pants down around our asses and the Lost Aetelia or whoever throws the switch on reality, all hell will break loose. I want to be on top of that pile when it’s all done, and I want you by my side. Do you get me? Do you read what I’m writing here?”
Darkness closed in on the corners of Grabbe’s vision. “If the Chosen One fails, there’s not going to be anything to rule.” The words came from the end of a long, dark tunnel.
Jazshael lifted Grabbe’s drooping head, looking into his eyes. “That’s the whole point of this exercise, my friend, the crux of our drive, you could say. You’re going to make sure that happens.”
“How?” This word would be Grabbe’s last. He could feel it. The sensation that crept over his body felt worse than unconsciousness, worse than pain, more like death, or something even worse.
“Like this,” Jazshael said.
Grabbe’s eyes flew open as Jazshael jabbed the needle into the tender flesh above his ear. A moment later, quicksilver cold flowed through the hole and into his brainpan. Energy coursed through his body and the world dissolved in a blue metallic wash that faded to gray. He tried to speak, but the thickness in his throat had become far worse, an actual obstruction blocking not just words but air.
It would be only moments before his consciousness disappeared down a dark hole in the center of this new, gray world.
Jazshael leaned close to Grabbe’s ear, whispering the last words that Grabbe heard on this side of consciousness:
“You will become a god.”
Jonathan D Allen
Born and raised in the rural Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, Jonathan wrote his first fantasy/sci-fi novel at the age of 13. After studying writing and communication at James Madison University, Jonathan turned his passion for writing into a full-time technical writing career in the DC Metro area, working for companies like Sprint/Nextel, Time Warner Cable, and Sirius XM Radio, where he had an opportunity to combine his love of music with his love of writing. He may have drifted away from fiction at times, but it was always his first love – and he always returned to it. Now living in Bethesda with his wife, two cats, and two quirky guinea pigs for which his publishing company is named, he crafts the kinds of stories that he had always hoped to read but just couldn’t quite find.
Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Tumblr
1. When did you realize that you wanted to be a writer? How has it manifested through the years?
Fairly early on. I started writing around age five or six, off and on just writing down these little scenes. I don’t know if I recall a specific decision to pursue writing past that, it just grew out of that strange period between childhood and adolescence, where I still played with toys but had a nagging sense of wanting more. I suppose these days it would be called fan fiction. I would play out scenarios with the toys and then write those scenarios down as stories. I think of it as stage rehearsal for doing the real thing. In retrospect, the practice helped me hone my ability to visualize and write scenes as physical things. A year or so later I discovered Stephen King and began to emulate what he was doing and at some point it became clear that I’d like to do it for the rest of my life.
2. Is there one book/author that has influenced you most?
See the mention of King, specifically The Talisman. For those who haven’t read it, the book is about a young boy who has to travel cross-country (and cross world) to rescue his dying mother. It’s an interesting twist on the coming-of-age road novel. I was nine or ten when I read it and it absolutely grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. That’s what drove me to emulate King.
3. You awaken one morning to a dream come true: an email asking you to be a co-author. Who would the email be from and what would the story be?
Now you’d think I’d say King here, and that would be pretty awesome, but Pat Conroy, author of The Prince of Tides. Tides came along much later and influenced me in different but similar ways to The Talisman. The story would focus on a sister and adopted brother in a Southern family and the issues that they face in inheriting their father’s farm. Sounds very specific, I’m sure, but I wrote a short story based on the very thing early on in my career, trying to develop a voice similar to Conroy.
4. Can you share a bit about your writing process? Do you prefer a certain time of day? A favorite location? Musical accompaniment or silence? Etc.
My process changes so much. One book may come to me whole, in an idea that I write down on a post-it note or text to myself and then expand as the story goes along. Another, such as one that’s kind of “on the bench” at the moment, starts with a character and an image, with not much else to go on, but the character and situation are so compelling that I have to figure out what’s going on. As for time of day/location/music, it all really depends on the season. In the Winter I prefer to sit in front of a sun lamp, where-ever that may be located, and complete silence. Spring is more about the upbeat music and a laptop, somewhere warm. Summer I can write anywhere anytime, that’s really my best time of year, though Autumn comes close with the same sort of thing. I have also written an entire first draft in one weekend. Not recommended, but it can be fun.
5. The desert island question: which book would you bring?
Oh, I can’t choose just one; if it came down to it I’d do a coin flip tourney, probably. It would come down to Prince of Tides, The Talisman, or Stephen King’s IT. Those are the few books that I can read over and over again without getting tired of them.
6. Do you prefer reading physical books, e-books, audio books? Why?
I really want to say e-books. If I had infinite time, I would be reading e-books regularly. Unfortunately, counting my novels, I work three jobs, so free time is kind of rare and when I do get it I almost have to turn my brain off or engage it in a different way. I do, however, spend two hours in the car most days, which means that audiobooks have become my “drug of choice”. I know some fans turn their nose up at them, but oral storytelling is a fine tradition and I view it as an extension of that. It’s also so important to know how a book sounds when it’s read aloud – audiobooks give you a good idea of what works and what doesn’t work.
7. Many readers believe books are better than movies based upon books. Do you agree?
I don’t. I think it really depends on the story, the author, and the director. Going back to The Prince of Tides, I think the film adaptation is abysmal, but that’s on the director and screenplay, not on the source material itself. If ever a story could be adapted well for the screen, The Prince of Tides would be one, but we got that instead. At the same time, controversial as the opinion might be, I think "Fight Club" is an example of a film that outshines the source material, and even Palahniuk agrees on that one. The characterization is deeper and the story far more coherent than the novel. It should have been a film to begin with, I think.
8. How has your publishing process aligned with your pre-publishing expectations?
Interesting question, as I’m making the dreaded decision to go hybrid very soon. I’ve bounced back and forth between the idea of traditional and self-publishing. After realizing that this series was probably not very commercially viable, I decided to go the self-publishing route and blaze my own trails, but I knew what that would entail: a lot of uphill struggle for not much gain. Oh, I have my fans, don’t get me wrong, but I poured a great deal of effort into the early going, foolishly thinking that the energy input would equal the output. I now know that the energy is better directed into writing a follow-up, so in that way I’m a bit disappointed with self-publishing, though I still think it was and is the right call for this series.
9. How would you describe a world in which books didn't exist?
Depends on what we’re talking about, books or novels. For that matter, are we talking physical or digital? I don’t know that I can fathom a world where books don’t exist at all; at that point we’re talking about the removal of textbooks and important non-fiction material. I’m sure civilization would exist, but I don’t think it would rise far above the level of early Mesopotamia. Now a world without novels, that’s a bit more plausible, and while it’s sad at this point I don’t know that it would change things that dramatically. There would still be the creative outlets of film, TV, and interactive entertainment for drama, comedy, etc. The world’s imagination would certainly be poorer for it, but I think it would manage to get along.
10. How do you market your books?
Poorly! When I started this, I did quite a bit of social media peddling and blog connections/trades/tours/what-have-you. I like to joke that I made a lot of friends but not a lot of sales. I kept on trying, though, increasingly frustrated with the lack of return. At some point another writer sort of “took me aside”, as much as you can do that on the Internet, and suggested that the best marketing is releasing the next book. Since then, I do a modicum of tours, maintain my official site and blog, and keep writing the next novel. I’m also mulling over the idea of hiring a PR assistant.
11. What are you working on now/next?
I am about two-thirds of the way through the first draft for the sequel to Pathways (and could not think of a more graceful way to state it). That is currently on hold, however, as I’m knee-deep into a literary novel that I want to send through the more traditional channels. That one centers around a small-town dentist who happens to be a sex addict and his struggles after the love of his life dies. It’s a quieter, more character-driven piece. Then we get back to the loud action film of the "Among the Dead" series.
Jonathan also stopped by last year during his Room 3 Tour. Check out his guest post here!
Please share any comments below. If you've read his books, feel free to share your thoughts on those, as well. Be sure to enter the international giveaway. The grand prize is a $25 Amazon Gift Card + an ebook copy of Pathways of the Dead, while the runner-up prize is an e-book copy of Pathways.
a Rafflecopter giveaway