A Hunger Like Fire
The Marriage of Virtue and Viciousness
Ashes and Angel Wings
The Seven Deadlies
The Wreckage of Paradise
Selected Short Stories
The Dark Man
As I See It
The Devil's Sugar
Looking For the Free Stuff?
This web site increasingly resembles an attic full of old code but, I hope, a few worthwhile and interesting treasures hidden under the dust. This particular page has not been updated for some time (before this) and much of the fiction attention and traffic has moved on to the Greg Stolze Internet Fiction Library. If I was just a little bit smarter, I’d get that Fiction button at the top redirected, or else find some way to fold the two pages together.
Currently In Process: Emily Speaks
Emily Speaks is a 5,000 word piece about two angry, lonesome men, one discomfited voice actress, and an e-commerce solution that’s crawling out of the Uncanny Valley and up some previously uncharted Uncanny Mountain. What happens when computers can simulate humanity better than people can embody it? If I get $500, everyone can find out.
My most recent novel is SWITCHFLIPPED, a schizophrenic little narrative about (on one hand) an ordinary and confused young man pursuing the mysteriously-vanished love of his life and (on the other hand) time-warpers, a Kung Fu fighter, a false saint, a woman who is also a building and a lightning-obsessed jagoff in conflict with the secret rulers of all America’s automobiles. It’ll show you a good time.
Currently, this book is available in electronic formats, on Amazon, Smashwords, and from the publisher, Ghostwoods. If you prefer your reading on paper, it can also be purchased as a bound volume.
In 2001, I started to consider how a story conveys itself to the
reader. What elements of meaning arise from word choice? Which emerge
from structure? Was there a way to determine the relative weights
of materials and architecture in fiction?
In 2001, I devised an experiment to get answers. The name of the
experiment was detonated fiction.
A sprawling, brawling mélange of science fiction, horror
and fantasy, this collection of short stories spans a decade of
creative output. Scary Face collects long-lost short stories
from the pages of SHADIS magazine and out-of-print Delta
Green anthologies alongside materials that have never before dared
the light of day — including “Unorthodox,” an
Unknown Armies tale featuring everyone’s favorite psychic
surgeon, and “Challenge,” a preview of the setting and
cultures of REIGN. “As I See It”,
“Potential Recruit” and “Little
Wing” are all here too. Currently available at http://www.lulu.com/gregstolze and Drive-Thru Horror, Scary Face shows you where I’ve come from and where
I’m going. Wanna come along?
May I just say I love writing novels? Man, it’s great! Other
writers may mope and mourn the burdens of their creativity and agonize
over the intimidating blank page, but not me. For me, the process
of writing a novel is like sex or pizza: Even when it’s bad,
it’s still pretty good. This seems doubly true when I compare
it to a lot of truly wretched jobs I’ve had, like making
pizza. Or doing data entry. I was even a phone solicitor for a summer,
but I plead youthful ignorance on that job.
Compared to that stuff, making a buck by telling the kinds of
stories I like to read is very easy money indeed.
Who really has power? Is it the sheriff in a small Missouri
town who has a badge and a gun and authority, but who can’t
stop or punish a rash of bizarre murders? Is it Alex Abel, a millionaire
who knows that magick is a real and fundamental force of the cosmos?
He’s built a private army to control or intimidate those who
manifest these occult powers… powers that, for all his brilliance
and wealth, are beyond his grasp. Or does the power lie with the
sorcerer known only as the Freak, a protean hermaphrodite with absolute
control over its own body and that of others… a power paid
for with suffering, and suspicion, and constant, total loneliness?
In Godwalker, the price of power is high, and obscure, and
often comes wedded to chaos and regret. But to those on the godwalker’s
path, it’s worth the cost… because if you don’t
grab it, someone else will, and the hungry for power don’t
This is not a novel I was hired to write, but one I felt compelled
to write. It’s based on the setting for Unknown
Armies, a game I created with John Tynes. The game is about
power and consequences, and the novel is too.
There was a pretty big gap between when Godwalker was
written and when it was published. About five years, I think. I
started it after we’d completed Unknown Armies and written
a few supplements for it… back then, we didn’t have
any idea whether UA would be a big successful IP that could spin
off into lots of supplements, novels, hell, maybe a computer game
or a TV show or a breakfast cereal. We also didn’t know if
it would sink like a stone. (As with many things, it wound up in
the middle. The people who like it like it a great deal. It was
profitable. But it failed to turn into a cultural phenomenon.)
During the UA honeymoon, I had the idea for Godwalker.
It would be a novel set in the Midwest, a milieu I know well, and
it would throw up conflicts along a couple axes. One would be those
who want occult power, against those who couldn’t care less.
The other would be about those who have such power, contrasted
with those who lack it. Not everyone in book who’s entangled
in the paranormal necessarily wants to be, and not everyone who’s
very keen on examining the seamy underside of the cosmos gets a
chance to do so. Unpleasantness ensues as events seek equilibrium.
Godwalker is available in my store at CafePress. At least
one copy has been sold in every continent on the globe. (Okay, not
Antarctica. But it’s really the runt of the continental litter
A Hunger Like Fire
Persephone Moore has it all — looks, brains, ambition,
and an unquenchable hunger for the blood of the living. But with
every night she feels herself grow a little colder, a little more
monstrous. How long before her hunger consumes her whole?
Bruce Minder could hardly be more different. A three-time loser
and alcoholic, he is just one of the nameless citizens creatures
like Persephone move through and feed upon. All that is about to
I thought that was pretty good sell text, especially that first
sentence. I don’t know who wrote it, though.
I was offered the honor of writing the first tie-in novel for Vampire:
the Requiem, White Wolf’s relaunch of their flagship game.
As you might expect, I was pretty nervous, but I’m very pleased
with how it turned out.
This was the fifth novel I’d written, and while I’d
had some that just broke out of their cells and went berserk (like
The Seven Deadlies) this one was well behaved and followed
its outline politely.
When I was developing the idea, I wanted it first and foremost
to be a good story, then to be a good vampire story, and then to
be a good Requiem story. These are by no means incompatible, but
I felt it was important that the book be very accessible even to
people who’d never read the game. (If you’re a fan of
the game, read the book and see how many clan names get mentioned.
If I recall correctly, it’s exactly one.) Furthermore, I wanted
tension and character development and a plot that kept the pages
turning. One internet poster criticized it for not being ‘big’
enough, by which I think he meant he wanted to see really old vampires
with super-badass powers doing unbelievable, over the top stuff.
What I wanted was much closer to the other end of the spectrum.
I couldn’t assume familiarity with the setting, so I created
a character (Bruce) who knew nothing of vampires. He narrates three
of the book’s nine chapters. A level above him is Persephone
(one of the ‘signature characters’ created in-house
by the editors and developers at White Wolf) who narrates each chapter
after his. She’s been in the vampire subculture longer than
Bruce and started with a lot of advantages he lacked. She peels
back another layer for us. Each of the remaining three chapters
is from an old and truly terrible vampire — creatures whose
time in death far exceeds their time alive and whose experiences
have warped their perceptions of right and wrong, or realigned them
completely, or put them under s
o much stress that they have to constantly
battle just to keep human-scale morality in perspective.
It was a good structure. The novel covers most of a year, three
seasons, and in each season we get three perspectives from three
levels of undead society. The events of the novel range from hardscrabble
attempts to get by, all the way up to city-shaking political intrigues.
All, of course, seen from the varied perspectives.
Oh, and originally I wanted the title My Drinking Problem.
The Marriage of Virtue and
Chicago has vampires. One woman’s on a crusade to destroy
them. The vampires disagree and, in fact, want to make more. In
the middle of all this sits Solomon Birch, high priest of a vampire
cult, trying to figure out the right action for creatures cursed
by God. Can he succeed at being the plague that perfects mankind?
Or is he doomed by rivals from outside his church… and those
Okay, that was my attempt at back-cover sell text. I’m not
great at it — it’s a real mental block for me. I could
blame my Midwest upbringing, I guess. I was raised not to brag.
Furthermore, when I’ve written an 80,000 word novel, I find
it really hard to squeeze it down into suitably-small blurb.
To me, The Marriage of Virtue and Viciousness is all about
the interplay between what we selfishly want, and what we believe
is right. Some characters pursue what they believe is right even
when it makes them suffer — I’ll say especially
then. Others are just self-interested and seem okay with that…
though their accomplishments are limited and their behavior is constrained
by the choices of others.
Then, there are a few who can make an alloy between their urges
and their beliefs. These characters get more done than anyone else,
possibly because they don’t spend any time wringing their
hands and dithering. Does that really make them admirable, though?
I probably just convinced many of you not to buy the book, by making
it sound like an indigestible think-piece. Don’t worry. It’s
got a murder cult, knifeplay, sexy characters, arrogant jerks being
taken down a peg, jazz, booze, girl-fighting, physical intimidation,
guns, psychic visions, blackmail and a junkie teetering on the edge
That’s all in the first chapter.
Ashes and Angel Wings
Hasmed, a fallen guardian angel, has returned to the world
in the possessed body of mob-fringe loser. He attempts to rise within
the mortal hierarchy of the mafia while serving the infernal hierarchy
of his imprisoned master. There’s only one hitch in his plan
to yoke conventional crime to the war against God. It’s another
demon, Avitu, who is older, more powerful and far crazier. Avitu
believes she can earn the forgiveness of the Almighty. All she has
to do is fix humankind so that they can’t sin any more.
Make that two hitches. His mortal host has a daughter Tina,
who has a knack for rousing those long-buried guardian instincts
at the most inconvenient times…
This book and the next two comprise the Trilogy of the Fallen,
a series of tie-in novels for White Wolf’s game Demon:
the Fallen. It’s the first novel I wrote with a contract
and an advance and everything — just like Janet Evanovitch!
— so I was pretty nervous about getting it right. In fact,
I very nearly didn’t get to write this at all.
The roleplaying game field is full of frustrated novelists (or,
in my case, relieved ones). Being permitted to write a tie-in is
seen as a very sweet plum, and it’s offered to freelancers
who’ve demonstrated both skill and loyalty… when the
line developer hasn’t gone and snapped up the novels himself,
that is. Mike Lee, the line developer for Demon, initially
intended to write the novels himself but, due to scheduling conflicts,
just could not fit them in. He had to pass, and I was there ready
to pounce on his misfortune and profit from it. It’s a shame,
since I think Mike would have done a bang-up job. But, from my perspective,
not too much of a shame.
The Seven Deadlies
The devil Gaviel, shorn of his wings and glory for rebelling
against God, now controls the body of a minister’s son in
Missouri. Unlike Hasmed from Ashes and Angel Wings, he has no desire
to fling wide the gates of the Abyss and ruin the mortal world.
He’s looking out for number one. Unfortunately for him, he
gets roped in to the conflict with Avitu, an alliance with an untrustworthy
demon of lust, and a showdown with an angel of death who was cast
into Hell, even though he fought for Heaven’s cause.
This was a tough book to write. I had it all out
lined, neat and
tidy, and about halfway through I realized it wasn’t going
to work. At all. The outline was trashed, the book was completely
derailed and I had no clue in the world what was going to come next.
So I did what any decent writer would do. I panicked and called
Phillipe Boulle edited the Trilogy and handled this crisis with
great aplomb. “Greg,” he said, “Is the book bad?”
“Well no,” I replied. “Not so far, I mean, actually,
I like a lot of what I’m writing, but I just don’t know
where it goes.”
“Well, why don’t you just try writing it out and following
it along? You’re a good writer. Maybe if you trust your instincts,
it’ll turn out okay.”
To my great shock, it did. In fact Phillipe told me The Seven
Deadlies was his favorite book of the three. I must admit,
writing the sermons was a load of fun.
The Wreckage of Paradise
The climax of the Trilogy hinges on Sabriel the succubus, who
desires nothing more than to punish humankind — in her view
of things, they betrayed the demons who raised arms against the
Almighty on humanity’s behalf. This puts her at odds with
Avitu, who wants to protect and restore mankind… though, admittedly,
in a way that most humans would find terrifying and repellent. Sabriel
battles beside, and sometimes against, Hasmed and Gaviel in a conflict
that encompasses mobsters, serial killers, ghosts, demons, artists,
Federal agents, scholars, strippers, video clerks and even Lucifer
Once I got past the tricky middle swing of the Trilogy, the rest
more or less outlined itself. I’d been fortunate enough to
be in on the very earliest planning stages of Demon:
the Fallen, so I had lots of input on Hasmed as he appeared
everywhere. From the very first, I knew exactly how I wanted his
story to end, and in Wreckage, it ended. In my mind, I
had that section written before I even started on the first book.
Also, I’m rather fond of the title. Titles are a pain for
me, so I’m always pleased when I can think of a good one.
Selected Short Stories
The Dark Man
As I mentioned back in the introduction,
this was my first published piece of fiction, back in 1992 in Haunts
magazine. I submitted another story to them first, one I thought
was better, but they rejected it and I thought, “Well, might
as well try the other one.” It got accepted, but due to the
vicissitudes of the Rhode Island post office (at the time, it was
apparently notorious for being, in a word, crappy) I didn’t
find out I’d been accepted until two or three years
later, when the story was actually scheduled for publication. I’d
just been too shy and self-conscious to write a letter to the editor
asking for clarification.
This is my contribution to the anthology Alien
Intelligence, which is based in the Delta
Green game setting. It’s the story of an undercover agent
who becomes emotionally entangled with the cult he’s investigating,
forcing a conflict of loyalties between the isolation, loneliness
and justice of his job, and the people who are depraved and evil…
but who understand and welcome him.
Bob Kruger, the editor on the anthology, really kicked the crap
out of this piece in the best possible way. The first draft had
a lot of good build-up and no payoff, so he asked me to redo the
ending. I did. He still wasn’t happy and made me do it again,
and that third time, I realized what the story was really about
and what it really meant to the main character. Reading it now,
I can’t imagine any other ending on it — it all seems
so seamless to me. But I only realized the obvious under duress.
As I See It
The second Delta Green anthology was entitled Dark
Theaters and I had some fun with my second short story. Agent
Rebecca Marks, who served as something of a Greek Chorus in “Potential
Recruit” returns at center stage. The story has a fractured
narrative that skips around in time, in order to tell the story
of an FBI investigator whose perception of time becomes fractured.
The Devil’s Sugar
This is a short story in Lucifer’s
Shadow, the anthology tied to the game Demon:
the Fallen. It has a tie-in to the novel trilogy, taking place
roughly in the middle of The Seven Deadlies. Looking back,
that was maybe a little awkward for the novel, but I’m quite
happy with the story. As I recall, one reviewer’s reaction
was, “At last! A story about a demon who’s not misunderstood,
not tragic, not a flawed hero, but who is deeply selfish, manipulative
and evil!” That pretty much covers it.
I joined the Naperville
Writer’s Group in 2002, and they have this tradition of
reading only spooky stories at the meeting before Halloween. I couldn’t
very well let that go by, could I? So when I had this very
odd dream, I tried to get it down on paper, complete with the eerie
unreality that it had possessed throughout. I didn’t completely
succeed, but I think the story’s still pretty good. One of
the other guys in the group, who’s working on his own series
of ghost stories, offered to buy it off me for his web site —
and there it is.
What is Detonated Fiction?
What is “Detonated Fiction”?
Five or six years ago I read Italo Calvino’s excellent novel
On a Winter’s Night a Traveler”. One part of the
book is a satire on literary analysis in which a critic insists
that actually reading books is passé. She analyzes them by
feeding the text into a computer and having it crunch out the frequency
of word choice. Thus, a book that uses the phrase “Sam Browne
belt” more than “tenderness” clearly reveals a
It was a funny bit, but it got me thinking: How much of the meaning
of a work is conveyed by word choice, and how much by word order?
What is the weighted importance of the words used as opposed to
their arrangement? Furthermore, was there a way to analyze or even
examine these factors?
At the time, I was working as a secretary for a group of computer
science teachers, and I asked one how hard it would be to write
a program to analyze the frequency of word use in a document. “Not
hard,” he said. Then I asked him if he’d do it for me
and he declined. (Not that I blame him. Those CS professors worked
Frustrated by numerical analysis, I tried another approach, and
it worked, I guess. I found a way to use Microsoft Word to alphabetize
every word in a story (though the longer the stories were, the more
cumbersome the process became and the more difficult the output
was to read). I called the process “detonation” because
that’s basically what happens: The work is blown out of the
author’s careful order and then re-arranged alphabetically.
That’s an order, of course, but it’s one that might
as well be arbitrary or random for the purposes of creating meaning.
Except, of course, for the meaning intrinsic in the words themselves.
How to Detonate Text with Microsoft Word
1. Click on “Edit” and choose “Select All”
2. Click on “Edit” and choose “Replace”
3. Enter a single space in the section labeled “Find
4. Click on the section labeled “Replace With”
5. Click on “More” and then “Special”
and then “Paragraph Mark” When you hit “Replace
All” your text should be turned into one long string
with each word as a separate paragraph.
6. Click on “Table” and choose “Sort”
and then “OK”
Now you should have a string in alphabetical order, possibly
with a bunch of blank lines at the beginning. All you have
to do is repeat steps 1-5 replacing paragraph marks with single
spaces again, and your piece is detonated.
With a means of divorcing the meaning arising from word choice from
the meaning arising from word position, the clear question was:
What to do next? Well, why not expose people to detonations before
they’d seen the structured text, and get their reactions?
Since I’m a big fan of (1) creativity and (2) fun, I thought
it would be fun to see people’s creative reactions. To abet
me in this goal, I enlisted three writer friends: Jonathan
Tweet, John Tynes and
John Tynes agreed to supply the seed of the project: One of his
unpublished short stories. Here’s
Tynes’ story. He emailed it to me and I detonated it –
trying hard not to read any of it in its organized form. Then I
took the detonated file, sent it to Tim Toner and asked him to write
a short story after reading the detonation. Note that Tim never
had a chance to read Tynes’ words in their intended order.
Here’s the word
slew he got. Nor did I ask any of the writers to try and re-use
all the words in the detonation files without adding any. Good grief,
can you imagine what an agonizing puzzle that would be?
If you’ve looked at the file Tim got, you’ll notice
that I broke it into paragraphs. I did that to make it easier to
read and out of a certain artistic or aesthetic impulse. (Notice
how “parents parents parents” gets a line all to itself?)
It was fun.
Tim produced a whopper of a story, much longer than Tynes’
vignette. Here’s Tim’s
story. I blew it up, again trying hard not to read it, and sent
the remains on to Tweet. Once more, I broke it into paragraphs.
(This probably indicates something deeply perverse and narcissistic
about me.) (Or, if the paragraph insertion didn’t, that last
parenthetical aside probably did.) (Okay, I’ll stop now.)
Jonathan did his own literary demolition, sending this
detonation to me. (When the experiment ended, he sent along
the assembled story.)
I ended the process by writing this
story in response, which was eventually published in issue #17
of the Naperville Writers’ Group magazine Rivulets.
I’ve personally drawn a conclusion or two from this series
– notably that Tweet and Toner can bring it pretty effectively
on short notice – but rather than share my deeper insights,
I’d like to get your response. Yes, you. I’d love it
if you came down to the fiction
forum and let me know what you thought of the stories, what
trends you noticed and what (if anything) you think this practice