Monday, December 24, 2012

Signs of Life at Christmas?

Excerpt from a letter by Master James Carlson to his older sister, Perchance:

“…and is my custom, I found myself walking the grounds on Christmas Eve, thinking of Holidays past and the joy that was ours every Christmas morning as children. It seems so long ago, but, of course, it was but a few years ago.

“As I passed by Janus House – you know its deserted, dear Per, don’t you? – I was reminded of a tale that Da once told us on a wintry Christmas Eve, one that concerned the sprawling mansion’s former owner…or does he in fact still own it? Anyway, it went something like this.

“Sgt. Janus was called to the house of an old miser who lived on the outskirts of some little town somewhere, as the skinflint was supposedly troubled with ghosts.

“’You of course remember the story of another, ahh, elderly gentleman visited by spirits at this same time of year?’ he asked the codger.

“The man passed his rheumy eyes over the famous Spirit-Breaker and coughed. ‘Just get on with it, young man,’ he spat. ‘I’m paying you to clear this house of what ails it, not remind me of musty old tales of fiction.’

“Janus smiled and turned to his task. After searching the entire house he came to the conclusion that the man was not being visited by the dead, but rather by a few very living rodents. This he told the gentleman and waited for the explosion of denial that was sure to come. But none did. The old man simply stared at the sergeant and then exhaled slowly.

“’Then what am I to do of it?’ asked the miser.

“’My suggestion would be to bedevil this house’s rats no more and move along to your final destination,’ replied Janus with a twinkle in his eye.

“And with that the old man vanished in a puff of ancient cigar smoke and a jingle of dusty coins. Sgt. Janus made for the door, his work done. Save for paying his clients, of course.

“A piece of cheese, good and stout, left by the wainscoting and he was off. The next day, Christmas, the man’s family found his empty shell of a body in the master bedroom, a few crumbs of cheese littered here and there on the carpet, and, strangely, the clear tracks of hooves on the roof.

“Well, Per, let me burden you no more with old wives’ tales and allow me to wish you the very best of the Season and to your husband and my dear nieces.

“Oh, and by the by, I also saw a light on in a window of Janus House. I wonder what that could possibly mean…?”

All content (c)Jim Beard 2012 Please read the entire SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER book by picking up a copy on AMAZON.COM

Friday, September 28, 2012

Sgt. Janus Replies #7

Caine asks:

“What other famous individuals have you come in contact with on your journeys?”

Sgt. Janus replies:

“Your question seems to imply that I myself am a ‘famous individual,” but I assure you that I have never sought out nor am interested in fame or notoriety. If anything, I am perhaps infamous in some circles…

“Allow me to tell you a brief story, though, to answer your question. A few years ago I was asked to come to the house of a wealthy man who was, among many other things, a collector of art. I was astonished by the length and breadth of his collection and, upon seeing my interest, the man insisted that he give me a tour of the many paintings he owned. We walked past Michelangelos and Van Goghs and Cezannes and even a Degas or two, until we approached a small work at the end of one hallway. Pausing before it, the man indicated the signature on the painting. I looked closely to see that it was a Monet, one of his lesser-known achievements.

“The man then looked at me and explained that the work was the only Monet he owned and that he fervently wished to acquire more, but ‘the demmed things are too demmed elusive.” I told him that I was blissfully ignorant of such things and I was more interested in exactly why he had called me to his home – surely it was not to visit his art collection? He harrumphed and explained that he was quite certain that he had somehow acquired a spirit with the painting that hung before us, and that it was the lingering shade of Claude Monet himself. Before I could respond to this claim, the man urged me to contact the spirit and ask if it would not care to produce a fresh work or two for him. In other words, the art collector believed he had a line on wholly new Monets – exclusive to him and potentially worth a neat fortune.

“I told him that my profession as a Spirit-Breaker was to rid homes of ghosts, not parlay with them for a continuation of their earthly works, but the man insisted and I conceded that the exercise might prove valuable for future study. I asked to be left alone in the hallway and once my wish was granted, I asked the spirit for guidance on the matter. After several attempts, the spirit informed me that, to the contrary, he was not Claude Monet at all, but a simple painter of moderate skill who produced small works in his spare time. In life he was actually a chimney sweep, but in the afterlife, well, he had found some kind of fame…at least in the art collector’s eyes. Could he possibly go on without my ‘spilling the beans’?

“The lesson, here, I believe, is that fame is in the eye of the beholder. We are all giants in our own minds and we are also too often too easily blinded by the reputed fame of others. Still, better a famous artist in death than a simple chimney sweep in life…and my abject apologies to the real Claude Monet - REJ”

All content © Jim Beard 2012. Please consider purchasing a copy of SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER on AMAZON.COM.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sgt. Janus Replies #6

Armando Rivera asks:

”Upon encountering a spirit of unknown origin, is it more appropriate to withdraw posthaste, or venture to engage the phantom in polite conversation?”

Sgt. Janus replies:

”Firstly, I must state that beyond honesty, politeness is always the best policy. Now, more importantly, young man, I take it from the wording of your question that you feel within you the desire to communicate with spirits yourself – I must warn you that doing so will open you up to all manner of troubles if you are not prepared for such untoward contact. Before diving into a situation where a spirit could potentially be hostile, I would always err on the side of caution and call in a professional first. Granted, yes, you may have met up with a poor soul who wants only the singular solace of human company, but you may also just as easily encountered a vengeful shade whose only goal is to vex the living and extract as much revenge on them as possible from beyond the grave. By taking this all into consideration, I believe you will see that the choice is an easy one: do not go it alone – REJ”

SGT. JANUS REPLIES #7

All content © Jim Beard 2012. Please consider purchasing a copy of SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER on Amazon.com.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sgt. Janus Replies #5

Lee Houston Junior asks:

“How do you feel about the depiction of other ghost hunters, both real and imagined, within today’s various media outlets?”

Sgt. Janus replies:

“I’m afraid that my work leaves me little time for entertainment or other such pursuits and I cannot speak fluently on the various books and plays that concern others of my vocation. I must steadfastly concentrate on my clients and their troubles, lest they continue to be assailed by the forces of the supernatural and the psychical world. If there are such literary examples of my fellows, I must admit I remain fairly ignorant of them.

“That said, I did once take in a performance of a short film produced by Mr. Thomas Edison called ‘Frankenstein,’ which depicted scenes of an alleged supernatural nature. I found it to be quite hard to swallow and I cannot imagine such themes will ever come into prominence on the so-called ‘silver screen.’ The Unknown is simply much too challenging an entity to ever be portrayed with any semblance of accuracy in such a medium - REJ”

If you would like to pose a question to Sgt. Janus, please post it here or on Facebook.

SGT. JANUS REPLIES #6

All content © Jim Beard 2012. Please purchase a copy of SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER on Amazon.com

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sgt, Janus Replies #4

Ralph L. Angelo Jr. asks:

“At what age did you realize you had an affinity for the supernatural?”

Sgt. Janus replies:

“It is well-known and stringently documented that children and animals possess a high-degree of sensitivity to the Unknown. I first encountered a spirit at the tender age of eight-years-old when a tutor of mine – my parents insisted on private schooling though I would have preferred to be among more of my youthful peers – one day sat me down and explained in no uncertain terms that he was deceased and had been for at least twenty years.

“An event such as that is bound to either break a person or set them on a path towards their destiny. For me, it was a revelation, not only of how dull my senses were at the time, but also in the nature of the Universe and God’s unfathomable mysteries. I sent the poor gentlemen on his way, another first for me, and my parents began to look for another math tutor - REJ”

SGT. JANUS REPLIES #5

All content (c)Jim Beard 2012. Please pick up a copy of SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER at AMAZON.COM.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sgt. Janus Replies #3

Ralph Grasso asks:

"How often does one run into ectoplasm?"

Sgt. Janus replies:

"I assume, good sir, that you refer to those of us who make such things our business, not the general populace. If I and the others in my profession are doing our jobs well, the average man on the street should find that he is inundated by spirit material to a lesser and lesser degree as time marches on.

"For myself, it will vary. I may have several cases in a year's time, perhaps anywhere from six to a dozen, but the next year may only encounter the supernatural twice or even three times at the most. Interestingly, I don't believe there has ever been a study that has explored the rate of ghostly occurences in relation to times of the year - food for thought for an enterprising young psychical student.

"Let us also be clear as to the exact nature of ectoplasm. In Shudboldt's 'Musings on the Threads of Planar Construction,' he describes ectoplasm as the "blood of the beyond." In other words, he saw the substance as necessary for spiritual "well-being," the fluid, if you will, that makes their "life" possible. I do not disagree, but I have long believed that the definition needs to be expanded to not only include a blood component, but also a skin, muscle and organ comparison. That is to say that ectoplasm, to my mind, is the foundation block of spiritual existence, not just that which allows for its locomotion and "health," but the actual timber from which it is constructed - REJ"

If you have a question for Sgt. Janus, please post it here on the Spirit-Blog or on Facebook.

SGT. JANUS REPLIES #4

All content (c)Jim Beard 2012. Please pick up a copy of SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER at Amazon.com.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sgt. Janus Replies #2

Bob Kennedy asks:

"As a retired U.S. Army Engineer, I am curious to know in what branch of the military you served, and your job specialty."

Sgt. Janus replies:

“Robert, that is a valid question, but as loathe as I am to disappoint a fellow veteran I will be able to tell you precious little of my service. You see, the file on my entire military career has been sealed for the past several years and is accessible only by those at the highest levels of the service and the government. I myself am bound by law to not divulge any details that may be found in it, including those of which you inquire.

“Above and beyond that, the final days of my service were marked by personal tragedy, a private matter of which I am sure you would understand and sympathize with my reluctance to speak of it. Suffice to say that I was given an honorable discharge and I look back on the bulk of my service with honor and pride. I also hold no ill will towards any of my fellows or superiors. If you wish to pursue the question further, though I beg of you not to, you may contact Col. Drew Montaine at Fort Temper and address the matter to him. Perhaps, as a former military man yourself, he may be able to offer you that which I cannot – REJ”

If you have a question for Sgt. Janus, please post it here on the Spirit-Blog or on Facebook.

SGT. JANUS REPLIES #3

All content (c)Jim Beard 2012. Please pick up a copy of SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER at Amazon.com.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sgt. Janus Replies #1

Ron Fortier asks:

“Why did you choose such a dangerous career?”

Sgt. Janus replies:

“My good man, there are days that I ask myself that very question. But, in all seriousness, it came down to the old adage, ‘the job is often a dirty one, but someone must take it on.’

"After many arduous years of para-psychical research I realized how few of us are in tune with the worlds beyond the world and, in turn, completely defenseless against its more egregious injustices. Once I discovered my own abilities in this regard, that of being able to not only see the forces of the supernatural in play, but also divine solutions to their abatement, my path was set. I could no more walk away from it then I could divert the wind or change lead into gold. It is my duty, and my honor, to help those who cannot help themselves against spirits who would make our mortal lives a living hell – REJ”

If you have a question for Sgt. Janus, please post it here on the Spirit-Blog or on Facebook.

SGT. JANUS REPLIES #2

All content (c)Jim Beard 2012. Please pick up a copy of SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER at Amazon.com.

Friday, September 14, 2012

"Ask Sgt. Janus"

Well, I’m stunned.

Folks, last night, at the stroke of midnight, I received a telegram.

From Sgt. Roman Janus of Mount Airy.

If that in itself wasn’t so amazing – the sergeant writes very, very little himself, save for the occasional volume of psychical research – I found the contents of the telegram to be even more amazing.

It would seem that my good friend the Spirit-Breaker is open to answering questions from my readers.

After perusing his message, I quickly realized what an incredible opportunity this presented for those of us still on the mortal plane to inquire into Janus’ profession, which, admittedly, is one which lies beyond the veil of normalcy. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance that I am very happy to offer to you, dear readers, and I hope you will take full advantage of it.

All that will be required of you is to post a question, one per day please, for Sgt. Janus either here on the Spirit-Blog or on Facebook. The man himself will make his selections from among the questions – he regrets that he may not be able to answer them all – and I will in turn post his replies both on the Blog and on Facebook.

You may ask the sergeant almost anything, of any topic, but he begs your kind indulgence by asking questions of a serious nature only and none whatsoever pertaining to the events told of in the final story in SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER entitled “The Unfinished Record.” He regrets that stricture, but hopes that you may understand and sympathize.

So, have at it, Spirit-Breaker fans – compose your inquiries and let’s hear them!

All content © Jim Beard 2012. Please purchase a copy of SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER on Amazon.com.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sgt. Janus Returns

So, what has the good sergeant been up to lately, you may ask?

Plotting his triumphant return, of course!

I'm just now starting to turn my thoughts to the sequel to SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER, which is tentatively entitled SGT. JANUS RETURNS. Here's what I know at this moment about the book:

1) It will be published by Airship 27 in 2013, hopefully in the first half of the year.

2) It will, hopefully, feature interior illustrations once again by Eric Johns and, again hopefully, a cover once again by Jeff Herndon. I will endeavor to put the band back together again!

3) It will be eight tales, like its predecessor, but each story will have the same narrator, unlike its predecessor. I've gotten some fantastic feedback on my use of multiple narrators in SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER, but believe me when I tell you that the set-up of SGT. JANUS RETURNS demands a narrator who'll stick around for the entire, incredible story that arcs through its pages. If all goes well, and there is a third volume, the multiple narrator style will return.

4) It will...ahh, that would be telling. Forgive me, my friends, but SGT. JANUS RETURNS will be both recognizable as the kind of Janus adventures you may have enjoyed in the first book, but it will also be different. Fear not! A status quo of a sort will be established by the end of the eight tales, but the telling of it will involve a new angle on Janus' world, one I hope will thrill you as much as it thrills me now just thinking about it.

5) It will have ghosts. Ohhhh, yes; it will have ghosts.

6) It will be written, for the most part, in January of 2013. I say "for the most part" because the first story has already been written and needs only a bit more fleshing out. Or would that be "ectoplasming out"?

That's about all I can say right now, chums. I am sorely in your debt for your kind indulgences to Sgt. Janus and me over the past few months and I sincerely hope you will also indulge in the Spirit-Breaker's return. He'll be looking for you, as will I.

Oh, one last thing: I mentioned that the multiple narrator style will return in the third Sgt. Janus volume? Well, you might even see mutiple authors...

Cue Evil Laugh and fade out.

All content (c)2012 Jim Beard. Please order a copy of SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER on Amazon.com.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sgt. Janus Presents: Count Cryptoff in "Gone, Ghoul, Gone"

PART ONE.

The wind is cold, out of the west,

Your heart beats heavy, within your chest

But friends are here, to see you through,

So gather ‘round for Count Cryptoff’s brew…"

Benny Krutz intoned the words slowly, meaningfully, as if they were Shakespeare. They were an important, integral part of the show, the introduction to the evening’s repast. He took them seriously – or at least as seriously as he could manage on any given night.

Benny Krutz, as Count Cryptoff, was the idol of millions. Or at least the few hundred or so insomniacs, third shift workers and very, very bad children who tuned into him every Friday at midnight on Station WJBB. He felt he owed his legion of fans his concentration, his attention to duty, and the very best entertainment a fifty-dollar-a-show budget could deliver.

After the proscribed invitation into his crypt, he sat back onto his throne and smiled, showing off his fangs. He waited for Darla, his assistant, to make her entrance. In his mind’s eye, Benny could see her sweep onto the set in her black gown with the pleasingly low décolletage and the equally-pleasing tight-in-the-rump bustle. It was his one saving grace, show after show, night after night, week after week, sneaking peeks at the girl’s attributes and trying to work up the courage to ask her out.

Darla did not appear on cue. The director popped up from behind the camera and scowled. And it was not a good thing when Jules Pinochet scowled.

“I…err…Darla may be…down in the mausoleum pi—picking out tonight’s thriller-chiller, my fiends…”

It was lame and he knew it. But he had learned that live television was a most unforgiving matron and dead air was tantamount to declaring yourself a communist before the first commercial break.

Jules Pinochet scowled again. Benny knew that a Two-Scowl Show meant trouble not only for him, but for everyone who worked on “Count Cryptoff’s Chiller Carnival.” And they’d all blame him, the star, no matter who was truly responsible for the gaffe.

“I’m sure she will be here at any moment,” he hissed out of the side of his mouth, a not-terribly-easy-thing-to-do around a set of false fangs. In his mind’s eye he could see them shooting across the set and hitting Jules Pinochet in the forehead, producing a Three-Scowl Show. The record, made one night two months earlier, was a Seven-Scowl Show.

“Tonight’s offering is,” he scrambled to pull back his sleeve just enough – and surreptitiously – to remind himself of the film’s title, “ahh…wonderful, my fiends! It is to be… The Mystery of Edwin Drood!”

That one hurt. They’d been scraping the bottom of the barrel for horror films in the last few weeks and this just had to be the bitter dregs. Benny winced inwardly as he read the title.

Still no Darla. He had to continue to improvise. Once he had filled the allotted time and they went directly into the first reel of Claude Rains’ 1935 magnum opus, he flew off his throne, waving at Jules Pinochet to not say a word, not a single word.

Benny caught the edge of the spider web filigree that decorated the throne and tore it away as he passed. He did it almost every show and with every show the set guy grew more and more incensed at him.

His cape billowing behind him, he stalked headlong down the corridor past the dressing rooms – such as they were – and towards the backstage door to the alley. Pausing there, he collected himself. He knew what he’d find beyond the door – Darla, caught in the grip of a nicotine haze, completely shirking her duty to the show. And to him, to some extent.

If her caboose wasn’t one of the finest he’d ever seen on an assistant ghoul, he just didn’t know how he’d keep from flipping his lid at the kid. In his mind’s eye he saw himself remonstrating her and she, recognizing her faults, throwing herself on his mercy. And into his arms, natch.

Benny threw open the door and stepped out onto the tiny little loading platform that jutted out into the alley behind the studio. There, below him, four men went about the business of beating the bloody snot out of someone.

Then he saw Darla off to one side of the spectacle and she saw him.

Her eyes pleaded to him for…what? In the heat of the moment he couldn’t say. A trickle of blood ran down from the corner of her near-perfect lips; Benny supposed it wasn’t the fake stuff they whipped up by the bucketful for the show. Her already-risqué gown had slipped off one creamy, dead-white shoulder, an event that normally would have gotten quite a rise out of him, but at the moment smacked of something wrong. Very, very wrong.

Then the four goons paused in their calculated and rhythmic violence and looked up at Benny. All of them and all at once.

TO BE CONTINUED.

All content © Jim Beard 2012. You may purchase a copy of SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER at AMAZON.COM.

Friday, July 27, 2012

"The Lost Wife of Thomas Tan" - From the Case Files of Sgt. Janus

Thomas Tan thought his criminal past was finally behind him and his late wife’s soul put to rest by Sgt. Janus, Spirit-Breaker, but now he hides from a group of hunters eager to return him to his former master – or failing that to end his life forever.

Part 10.

I am very good at eluding people. After I was flung from the automobile its fuel tank ruptured and caught fire. The fire covered my tracks, allowing me to crawl through the snow and rest here under the Raynham Road Bridge. The falling snow has also served to hide me.

My attackers most likely believed I was dead, trapped in the burning wreckage, but now that the fire has receded they have found no body and are most certainly hunting me once again. I have gained enough time to write this record, but I’m afraid that time is now slipping away, signaling the final act of this little drama.

My old master does not let go of things easily, it seems.

The pain is now excruciating. My heart is behaving strangely; perhaps it will give out before they find me...that would be a blessing.

I am at peace oh yes! With Miriam safe I can finally rest. No more running, no more hiding, no more looking over my shoulder. I’ll face those I’ve hurt in my life and make my apologies.

Hard to write.

My plan to place this record somewhere safe, somewhere beyond the reach of the hunters. I hope I can still achieve that – Janus at least will find it of some significance, I’m sure.

It has been a long journey, and strange one.

Ah, the pain! I must stop writing now can barely hold the pencil. Hear someone coming. Wait. There, over the field.

Miriam.

Miriam walking across the snow barefoot in summer dress I bought her…so long ago. She said it was too daring too breezy too much like someone else might wear.

She looked lovely in it. She looks lovely in it.

Her skin radiant. Her smile – oh Lord! Her smile. I had forgotten…

Someone behind her walking with her – Janus? No, gone now.

I am gone

Miriam sweet Miriam her smile kissing me taking paper from my hand

Yes

THE END of “The Lost Wife of Thomas Tan”

Sgt. Janus will return in “Dig Deep the Well”

All contents © Jim Beard 2012

Pick up a copy of SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER at AMAZON.COM.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Spirit-Breaker Rises

In the early days of the shaping of SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER, I pitched a cover concept to editor Ron Fortier at Airship 27 that looked good in my head but didn't pass muster with the ol' Airship Chief.

My idea was to have artist Eric Johns illustrate a common scene for the period: a quaint family portrait, but with the Janus twist of a moldy old lady ghost instead of a a good lady wife standing next to her husband. The impetus behind my thinking was to show that to the sergeant the supernatural was almost the mundane and a ghost at his side wasn't cause for alarm. He took such things in stride. If done right, it should have made a very creepy tableau...

Cooler and more experienced heads prevailed and it was pointed out that a much more atmospheric and exciting cover was needed - enter Jeff Herndon and the spooky set-up that is already turning heads and helping to make the book a success.

So there you have it, Spirit-Breakers; another story behind the story. Stay spooky, stay spiritual!

All content (except images) (c) Jim Beard 2012 - Original cover sketch (c) Eric Johns 2012 and finished cover painting (c) Jeff Herndon 2012

Buy the book here at AMAZON.COM.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

"The Lost Wife of Thomas Tan" - From the Case Files of Sgt. Janus

Sgt. Janus, the local “spirit-breaker,” has chased off gunman who sought to retrieve one of their wayward fellows, a man whose deceased wife remains lost in the strange and terrifying world of the afterlife.

Part 9.

As we raced through the darkened corridors back to the Room of Visitation, I asked Janus how it was that my former employer knew both myself and poor Miriam – as far as I could determine, he had never met my wife.

“He may have been manipulating events all along,” said the sergeant with a heavy sigh. “For years and years, in fact. He may have ‘arranged’ for you to meet Miriam, for some nefarious purposes of his own. I have a good friend in the constabulary who will look into it if I ask him to…he and the doctor have met before.

“Now, here we are at the Room once again. Miriam needs you, Thomas. An old link still exists between the doctor and her - you must stand between them and break that link. With your great love for her.”

I think, at that moment, that I began to understand a small portion of what it is that Sgt. Janus does. With his unswerving love for humanity, he breaks the ties between here and…the other place and sends souls onward to their true rest. But though I was filled with that revelation, my frustration over being manipulated for years remained hot in my blood.

“Why did Miriam not tell me?”

Janus looked upon me kindly. “She could not. Her madness, you see. It must have been hell on Earth for her. But, now, you have the opportunity to right that terrible wrong.”

He opened the door to the Room and we both stepped inside. It was exactly the same as I had left it. Moving across the Room I immediately took the chair that I had vacated only an hour before and looked up at Janus for direction. He seemed pleased that I needed no urging to proceed.

“Miriam will come to you once more,” he said, moving about the Room and touching several objects, seemingly making minute adjustments or the like. “You are the key to her imprisonment. You are the light she will follow to find her way back to the path.”

With that he walked behind my chair and out of my view. I heard a door open, much as I had before in the Room, but again I wondered at that – there was no other door save the one that I could plainly see, the one through which we had come not minutes before.

Then, Miriam sat before me. This time not taking the chair opposite me, but kneeling at my feet, her head resting upon my knee and one hand stroking my leg. Oh, I nearly cried with anguish!

“Now, Thomas,” came the voice of Sgt. Janus, bodiless and ghost-like, “break the link.”

“But how?” I wailed, feeling the madness that crawled through Miriam, through her shade that sat in front of me. I wanted to reach out and touch her, but I remembered what she had said before: I could not physically embrace her.

“Part of you still works for him. Reject it. Reject him. Break the link.”

I looked down at my wife, my poor, lost Miriam. My feelings for her were clear, clear as cut crystal. My feelings toward my former master were clear – or so I thought. I believed that I had cut my ties with him ten years ago, but I saw then that all I had severed was what existed in the material world. My soul still rested in his hands.

Drawing on my still-heated love for Miriam, I cut the ties. I broke the link.

“Miriam! He cannot – will not – hurt you further! I will not allow it!”

Janus’ voice filled the room, strength in audible form.

“Go thee to thy rest, oh shade. Thou hast served well in life, now take thy reward…”

Unable to control myself anymore, I reached out to touch Miriam, but she was gone. And, I knew with a certainty, no longer lost.

I sat for a long time in that chair in the Room of Visitation, a part of me hoping that that shade would come back. Then, after many hours, I got up and rejoined Janus in his front parlor. When he saw me enter the area, he smiled and clapped me on the back, his sympathy evident despite his lack of words. I thanked him and told him I should be finding my way home, though I was unsure how I would achieve that goal, being without a motorcar or other transportation.

In the end, the sergeant insisted that I borrow his own auto. He made his apologies for not accompanying me, but he needed to stay at the house and continue to supervise its “cleaning.” He would send someone around later to pick up his car.

The car turned out to be a brand-new Hudson Phaeton. Driving it served to alleviate some of my depression.

As I rode along, down the long drive from Janus House and then onto Raynham Road proper, I looked out at the beautiful snow all around me and finally felt free. Free for the first time in decades. Since my childhood. I felt as if a heavy burden had been lifted off of me and that I could finally breathe.

It was over.

Or so I thought right up until the very second the other car appeared out of nowhere and crashed into me, sending the Phaeton tumbling over and over and down into a ditch…

TO BE CONCLUDED in Part 10.

All contents © Jim Beard 2012

Pick up a copy of SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER at AMAZON.COM.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

D12 to Spirit-Break?

We interrupt our regularly scheduled – ha ha – serialized story for an important Sgt. Janus update.

Our favorite Spirit-Breaker has gone all role-play.

The intrepid and clever Barry Reese has transformed the good sergeant from fictional ghost hunter to role-playing hero, by creating stats for him to be used with the Marvel Heroic Role-Playing Game. To say I’m honored and thrilled would be an understatement.

Back in the halcyon days of my youth, there were two games that I played until the cows came home, AD&D and the first edition of the Marvel Super Heroes Role-Playing Game. I loved the Marvel system because it was quick and easy and breezy and replicated the slam-bang action and adventure of the actual comics. My friends and I played one helluva lot of sessions of that game…

Anyway, here’s Sgt. Janus in all his role-playing glory – if you or anyone you know actually uses him in a campaign, let me know!

SGT. JANUS' HEROIC STATS

All content, except for game box images, (c)Jim Beard 2012

Saturday, July 14, 2012

"The Lost Wife of Thomas Tan" - From the Case Files of Sgt. Janus

Under fire from intruders in Janus House, Thomas Tan longs to put his departed wife’s spirit to rest, but must first deal with agents of his former criminal employer and the mysteries of the afterlife presented to him by Sgt. Janus.

Part 8.

Things happened at a rapid pace after that. Having recognized the men as former colleagues of mine, I attempted to parlay with them. That was a mistake. My edge in dealing with such matters had grown dull after ten years of hiding from my old master.

Still, the sight of me stepping out of the ante-room was enough to put an end to their shooting at the ghostly figure coming down the stairs. It disappeared as quickly as it appeared. Sgt. Janus then came down the stairs in its place, frowning at the men.

I asked them what they wanted. To my surprise, they wanted me and not Miriam.

“You have been away for far too long, Thomas,” said the one. “He requires your presence once more at his side. Ten years is long enough for you to have been reacquainted with the notion of freedom – but, as you well know, freedom is an illusion. We are here to bring you back to where you belong, to he who owns you, body and soul.”

Sgt. Janus said nothing, but I could feel both strength and a calming air emanate from him, helping me to face the intruders in his home. I stammered out Miriam’s name, asking what part she played in it all. The lead man laughed, a cruel sound to my ears.

“Your wife? Why, Thomas, no part at all. She has played her part long ago. He is quite done with her.”

“You mean her death?” I spat at him, the pain from her murder still a dull ache in my heart, even after all these years.

“No,” he replied, “her life.”

“I think I begin to see it,” said Sgt. Janus, stepping up beside me, placing a hand on my shoulder. “Your master is responsible for the spirits that drove her to the edge of madness.”

The man nodded, looking at us as if we were children who had stumbled upon a fact that everyone else already knew.

“A portal,” continued Janus. “A gate. A spirit-gate. She told me as much, but I did not understand at the time. Your master used her natural talents as a spirit-gate when she was a child to converse with the dead. And for the rest of her life she paid the toll for his…his bloody crime.

How dare he!"

Suddenly Janus’ voice was as loud as a hundred voices, all shouting at once. It rocked me backwards, almost off my feet. My former colleagues did not fare as well; they were sent sprawling, bowled end over end. The walls shook, the ceiling swayed, plaster fell, a window somewhere broke and shattered. The reverberations from the shout lasted for minutes – my ears ached for hours afterwards.

Janus came rushing upon them like a banshee where they lay. Looming over the three men, it seemed as if he was sucking all the light out of the air and into himself. I could not see his face for he was facing them and away from me, but it must have been horrible indeed for their own faces were twisted into masks of fear and loathing.

I have a message for your doctor,” Janus bellowed, deep and sonorous. “Oh yes, I know who he is, as I have been watching the devil from the corners of my eyes for many years. From this moment on I shall have all of my eyes upon him and all that he does.

Tell him this is finished. Tell him that Thomas Tan and his wife are under my care."

The men’s faces blanched. They scrambled to their feet and backed away from Janus, visibly shaking. Finally, they were through the door and gone from our sight. Janus issued one last message, this time as a whisper:

“And tell your doctor that he shall pay one day for his heinous crime…”

I sat there for what seemed an eternity. The sun set and still I sat. Much later, Sgt. Janus appeared at my side once more and crouched down to look me in the eye.

“Come, Thomas,” he said kindly. “Miriam awaits you. You must free her.”

TO BE CONTINUED in Part 9.

All contents © Jim Beard 2012

Pick up a copy of SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER at AMAZON.COM.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

"The Lost Wife of Thomas Tan" - From the Case Files of Sgt. Janus

Thomas Tan, a former criminal, has seen and spoken with what he believes to be his deceased wife at the home of Sgt. Janus, a man who deals in spirits and whose domain is being invaded by parties unknown.

Part 7.

My poor wife’s desperate plea shocked me. I didn’t know what to do, helpless as I was to affect the spirit world, but before I could speak and somehow assuage her anxiety, the door to the room was suddenly flung open. There in the doorway stood Sgt. Janus.

“Thomas,” he said tersely, “I seem to have uninvited guests. Please come with me.”

My only thought was for Miriam, but when I looked from the sergeant back to her, she was gone. Completely gone. My heart instantly ached for her, to see her face again.

Shaking it off, I rose from my chair and followed Janus out of the room and down the darkened hallway beyond. I asked him what was the matter, who he spoke of. He urged me to stay quiet and soon we approached the foyer to his home, where I had come in seemingly hours before. We came upon the area through a door that opened up beside his grand staircase and immediately I heard loud banging at his front door. Janus motioned for me to stop with a quick snap of his hand. The pounding increased and then we heard the loud bellows of a man, demanding to be let in.

“You have something that belongs to our employer,” the man outside growled. The voice was familiar to me.

The sergeant pointed off to the right; a clear sign that he wanted me in a side room. Something in his silent command led me to obey and I slipped though the doorway he indicated and hid myself behind some drapery at the entrance. Looking over to the man, I found that he had vanished, but his departing words hung in the air around me.

“Wait – and watch.”

Then, the front door burst open. The glass in it shattered and splinters of wood flew across the foyer from the door to impact the wall next to it. Loathsome figures occupied the open doorway, silhouetted in the remaining sunlight of the day. They entered Janus House, their shoes crunching bits of glass as they did. The first man abruptly stopped, then pointed.

I followed his finger to the staircase and was amazed at what I saw there.

A large transparent form came down the stairs, silent and unearthly. As it neared the mid-point of the staircase, I thought it took on a more…human designation; fantastic, but chilling. Beyond that I cannot say more other than noting a soft wailing that issued from it.

I tore my eyes from the ghastly thing and looked over at the intruders; they had paused, Oriental eyes wide, mouths hanging open in yellow-tinged faces. Surely they would bolt, I thought; I myself was fighting the urge to rabbit away from the scene. But, they held their ground and then the lead man slipped a pistol from his jacket, pointed it at the apparition and pulled the trigger.

The others with him followed suit.

They were hardened men. Precious little in Heaven and on Earth could cause fear in them. I knew this because I knew them.

TO BE CONTINUED in Part 8.

All contents © Jim Beard 2012

Pick up a copy of SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER at AMAZON.COM.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

"The Lost Wife of Thomas Tan" - From the Case Files of Sgt. Janus

A grieving widower is seated in a room in the strange house of a “spirit-breaker” and is confronted by what appears to be the ghost of his late wife…

Part 6.

This next movement in my story is difficult to contemplate, let alone to write. But I feel as it is important that others know of it, though it is extremely personal, so that they may make up their own minds as to the truth of it…or the lie.

My lovely, lost Miriam sat before me. Janus had somehow conjured her up, in every detail, and before my very eyes. I rose out of my chair to approach her, but she raised one slim hand to caution me against doing so.

”You cannot embrace me, Thomas,” she said. “That is no longer possible.”

I asked her why that was, though I knew in my heart that the gulf between us was now wide and impossible to cross. She smiled thinly and sadly, as if in answer, and urged me to speak no more on that particular matter. It was as it was. She was beyond mortal comforts.

”I am lost, Thomas!” she suddenly wailed, and I steeled myself against the emotions flooding through me – it looked, sounded so much like Miriam! As God is my witness, I swear it was truly her! Before I could do or say anything, she continued in a calmer voice.

”I am plagued here as I was in life – I do not know which way to turn, as there seems to be no true directions here. There is little to distinguish left from right, up from down…even right from wrong. It is more a nightmare than eternal rest.”

I wondered what sort of deity could do this to someone like Miriam. Was this what we were promised by the clergy, by the Good Book? My wife suffered so in life; was she to be tormented in death, too? I swore out loud, looked around the room for something to break, but then asked her what I could do for her.

“Release me,” she whispered. “Release me…"

I felt as lost then as Miriam. Untold frustrations ran through me, and an utter feeling of helplessness took hold of me with an iron grip. I opened my mouth to speak.

“Someone is coming!” said Miriam abruptly, the same look of madness in her eyes as I feared while she lived.

“Thomas, Thomas! Help me! He is coming for me!”

TO BE CONTINUED in Part 7.

All contents © Jim Beard 2012

Pick up a copy of SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER at Amazon.com.

Monday, June 25, 2012

"The Lost Wife of Thomas Tan" - From the Case Files of Sgt. Janus

Widower Thomas Tan has discovered that his late wife’s mental imbalances might have been due to the presence of hateful ghosts in her childhood, as revealed to him by “spirit-breaker” Sgt. Janus who claims to be in contact with the departed woman.

Part 5.

Before I could ask Janus to clarify his bold statement, he took me by the arm and led me through an ornate archway and down a darkened hallway. Dumbfounded, I went along with him without protest, my mind chewing on his allegations of Miriam’s early life. Finally, after a long walk, I could make out a small sliver of light coming from under a doorway up ahead. The sergeant stopped in front of that door, held out a hand for me to pause and then stood silently for a moment. He seemed to be listening for something. I myself heard nothing. Then, somehow satisfied, he turned the knob and opened the door. Light flooded into the hallway and he motioned for me to enter the room beyond.

I stepped into a room that, had my mood been more cheerful, I might have called charming. It was decorated tastefully, with a fine balance between the male and female sensibilities and with a small, crackling fire in its fireplace. There was one window, but its shades and curtains were drawn tight and, interestingly, the only furniture present and of note were two chairs, both of them comfortable-looking and facing each other in roughly the center of the room. I turned to look at Janus, unsure of what exactly I was to make of it all.

”The Room of Visitation welcomes you,” he said, and then insisted I sit down in one of the chairs, whichever one I chose. He then swiveled on his heel and made as to exit the room.

Well, I had no intention of “visiting” long with the man and told him that to be called to his home and then shuffled off into a parlor while he did God Knows What was simply not on the agenda. I demanded to be told what he knew of my wife and in no uncertain terms.

Janus’ frowned slightly, shook his head and then asked me once again to sit down. All would be explained soon, he said. The Lord only knows why, but I did as he asked. A moment later and he had left the room.

Sitting in one of the chairs, I began to feel foolish. I looked around the damnable room and realized how ridiculous it all was, how it seemed to be more of a charade of some sort and that I had fallen into the hands of a lunatic. I moved to stand up.

I heard a door open. I looked up at the only door in the room, but it remained as it was after Janus had left; closed and silent. I was not only sure there was no other door into the room, I was certain of it.

Then someone stepped around from behind me, behind my chair, and, with displacement of air and a rustle of cloth, sat down in the chair opposite me.

It was Miriam.

TO BE CONTINUED in Part 6.

All contents © Jim Beard 2012

Pick up a copy of SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER at Amazon.com.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"The Lost Wife of Thomas Tan" - From the Case Files of Sgt. Janus

Thomas Tan, a self-admitted “bad man,” has been summoned once again to come to Janus House by its owner and attend to the purported ghost of his late wife Miriam, a situation which causes a spike of anger in the secretive widower.

Part 4.

It took me until this very morning, almost an entire day, to find a driver who would take me out to Janus House, there on the outskirts of Mount Airy. In that time my anger cooled a bit and I was able to compose myself for the journey – and for facing Janus. I had words for him to hear, but I believed I could say them with a relatively rational tongue in my head. After I arrived at the house and began to slog through the mounting snow up the long path to its front door, my anger returned, though, and it was only the unexpected sight of the sergeant himself on his front porch that kept me from taking a poke at him.

I opened my mouth to remonstrate Janus for his bothering me about supposed messages from Miriam when he held up one hand, smiled and then reached out to take my own hand. Something about his demeanor brought me up short and I meekly shook his offered hand. He then ushered me inside Janus House as if I were an old friend.

The insides were dark. I didn’t know what to expect, having heard many wild tales of the mansion’s particulars, but I could make out little in the gloom. Janus explained that the house was being “cleaned” and seemed to think that a good enough reason for the darkness. I turned to him in the shadowy foyer and demanded to know why he persisted in approaching me about Miriam.

”She is lost, as I have endeavored to tell you,” he said simply. “She is quite lost and even my own abilities are not enough to shed light on the path back to her designated resting place.”

Before I could speak again, he continued. “You see,” he whispered, nodding, “her mind has not healed beyond the grave, as is…customary. It was shredded when she was very young, and the damage was so extensive it was a wonder she was able to function into adulthood. Perhaps some credit for that was due to your very great love and depth of feeling for her.”

I was stunned. I came to Janus House with thoughts of malice in my head and here the sergeant had defused me completely with only a few words. Knocked back on my heels, I stammered out a reply.

“Shredded?” I asked, confused. “By what?”

”Spirits,” said Janus, his cool eyes searching mine. “Selfish, vengeful spirits…”

TO BE CONTINUED in Part 5.

All contents © Jim Beard 2012

Pick up a copy of SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER at Amazon.com.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

"The Lost Wife of Thomas Tan" - From the Case Files of Sgt. Janus

Former-criminal Thomas Tan reflects on his late wife’s disturbed life and death, and his refusal to acknowledge spirit-breaker Sgt. Janus’ plea to listen to the woman’s message from beyond the grave…

Part 3.

I will explain.

As I have said, I loved my wife and am responsible for her death and her face still haunts my thoughts, but after ten long years without her I have found something resembling peace over her absence. She led a harsh life, her sanity waxing and waning and her days filled with anxiety and fear, but Miriam is in a better place now; I believe that. I have to believe that. And that is why I told the so-called “spirit-breaker” that, in no uncertain terms, I would not come at his beck and call and fall back into that all-too-familiar spiral that could only lead to pain and misery.

Miriam - if it was indeed my wife - would understand. That too I believed.

Janus looked at me with a queer expression, as if catching a glimmer of insanity in my own eyes, but then, without further word, he turned on his heel and walked away. I watched him retreat for several minutes then gathered my things and returned to my simple home, hidden away from the eyes of the world and my former master.

That was May. I half-expected to hear from Janus again – was he not known to be dogged and persistent in his “crusade” to help those vexed by spirits? How I figured into this profession of his I do not now, but alas, he did not come ‘round again…until just yesterday the crisp November air brought a letter from him. In it, he told me that Miriam had once again made contact with him and that her “misplaced steps are leading her further and further into chaos” and I was to come at once to Janus House. After reading the letter once, twice, three times I crumpled it into a ball and flung it into the fire and watched it burn.

I was livid, consumed by rage. I was also filled with…dread. For what? I do not know. I had never been afraid of anything before, having lived at the side of a master criminal, but perhaps having subsequently lived with my head down, peering around corners and cloaked in shadows for a decade had taken its toll with me. But I was also angry, and anger fuels me. Oh, yes, a good heated bout of rage can do wonders for my gumption.

I threw on my coat and headed out, with Janus House as my destination and murder on my mind.

TO BE CONTINUED in Part 4.

All contents © Jim Beard 2012

Pick up a copy of SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER at Amazon.com

Thursday, June 14, 2012

"The Lost Wife of Thomas Tan" - From the Case Files of Sgt. Janus

As Thomas Tan begins to feel his own mortality, he ponders the recent events that lead him to the edge of his life, specifically a meeting with spirit-breaker Sgt Janus who relayed a message to him from his late wife…

Part 2.

I have done many things in my life of which I am not proud; it would be pointless to go into them here and now. Perhaps they will all be revealed when I am gone, but suffice to say that I had long answered to a certain master of men and have done his dark bidding, which quite often entailed the destruction of not a few individuals. In return, I had been rewarded with creature comforts and had seen the world. But I had never truly been a happy man – until I met Miriam. Miriam changed everything.

She was not well in her own mind; I see that plainly now, but for the first year of our marriage it was not clear and I suffered many a day and night in confusion over it. You see, Miriam was not always herself and she could become easily lost, both in space and in spirit. But I loved her, oh Lord how I loved her, and we made a semblance of a life together despite her illness and my being a very, very bad man. I kept her hidden away from the prying eyes of the world and, so I thought, from my master.

One day, after a particularly onerous night of Miriam’s wanderings, I spoke a word to my master, after receiving his orders, the likes of which he was greatly unfamiliar:

”No.”

And then I left his presence and wandered myself for a time and then returned to my home and found there my beautiful, lost wife dead. This is what may transpire when a very bad man tells his very bad master “no.”

That was ten years hence. Since that deeply evil day I have endeavored to be a good man. Oh, I know that the stain on my soul can never be fully removed, but I have tried to staunch its spread and lighten its dark ichor with deeds I, perhaps foolishly, deem good. The Lord knows I’ve tried, if he hasn’t abandoned me all together – and I comfort myself in thinking that Miriam, wherever she may now wander, also knows I’ve tried.

So then I found myself looking into the queerly crystal eyes of a man I did not know and heard him tell me that my wife was searching for me from Beyond, and that she was lost. It played well with me superficially, the words like a topical balm all pleasing and cool to the touch, but I looked at Mount Airy’s famous Sgt. Janus and, with the cries and moans of the victims of the flood all around me, asked him what it was that I should do about it. And Sgt. Janus asked me in return to come directly with him to his home and talk to Miriam, to help her find her way.

Standing in the filthy waters which pooled around my ankles and my muscles screaming from my exertions, I spoke a word to the sergeant the likes of which he may or may not have been greatly unfamiliar:

”No.”

TO BE CONTINUED in Part 3.

All contents © Jim Beard 2012

Pick up a copy of SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER at Amazon.com

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"The Lost Wife of Thomas Tan" - From the Case Files of Sgt. Janus

Part 1.

I write this looking out at the falling snow from underneath the Raynham Road Bridge, the nub of a pencil in my barely-sensate fingers, scribbling on bits of crumpled paper found in my pockets. There is a curious pain in my arm and in my chest. My head is swimming. We thought this was finished. The sergeant thought this was finished. Apparently, that is not the case.

Perhaps this will be the last thing I ever write. But I will endeavor to begin it and to finish it and hope that it will find a home in someone’s hands who will care for its record of the events of the past few days.

I first met Roman Janus last May, during the flooding. Of course I knew of him; we all know of him in town, and I suspect in the city, too. Little thought I gave him before that day when I found myself shoulder-to-shoulder with the man, lifting heavy bags of sand to bolster a wall that threatened to give way from the weight of the water behind it. Throughout that long, arduous day we worked together well, albeit silently, for the most part. We made quite a team, actually. Then, when we were relieved by others, Janus and I introduced ourselves to each other and he told me the strangest thing. I will never forget it as long as I shall…well, for whatever time I may have left.

He said, “Miriam has asked me to find you. She cannot find her way.”

Why strange? You see, my wife, my dear, sweet, lovely Miriam has been dead for ten long years.

And I am responsible for her death.

TO BE CONTINUED in Part 2.

All contents (c) Jim Beard 2012

Read of Sgt. Janus' adventures in SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER, available on Amazon.com

Saturday, June 9, 2012

More News from the MOUNT AIRY EAGLE

Prominent Lawyer Passes

Jasper Farthing, a prominent Mount Airy lawyer, has died at the age of seventy-three. On the evening of August 4, Mr. Farthing suffered a heart attack in his home at No. 22 Bentley Blvd. and was pronounced dead some minutes later. He is survived by his wife Gentian, his four children Abigail, Louella, Primrose and Jinkster, and eighteen assorted grandchildren.

Mr. Farthing began his career as a solicitor after returning from abroad at the age of twenty-two and quickly rose to prominence among regional peers. He was brought into the firm of Farley, Winkle, Munger & Munger as a junior partner at the age of thirty-one and made a full partner only three years later. The firm of Farley, Farthing, Munger & Munger went on to establish themselves as the preeminent source for legal representation in the district, due in large part, according to his partners, by Mr. Farthing’s attention to detail and a steadfast drive to succeed.

The late solicitor will be interred at Whispering Oaks Cemetery after a brief showing at Gateman Mortuary. Both services will be open only to the immediate family and invited friends and associates.

An unusual codicil to Mr. Farthing’s last will and testament states that should he “return to the mortal plane in any shape or form after legal and binding death, be it shade, revenant, ghoul or ghast,” the solicitor resolutely bans “the presence of one Sgt. Roman Janus from the Farthing properties and holdings, ad infinitum.” The addendum goes on to state that should Mr. Farthing’s supposed spirit appear at any other place than his own properties or holdings, he asks the Mount Airy government and police department for their “kind indulgence to restrain the aforementioned person, or any representative of that person, from acting in any manner or fashion whatsoever detrimental to the shade, revenant, ghoul or ghast.”

Mrs. Farthing was approached by this reporter to clarify such an odd codicil, but was told by a family servant that the woman was in deep mourning and that her husband’s wishes would be carried out to the letter of the law.

Sgt. Roman Janus could not be reached for comment.

All content (c) Jim Beard 2012

Get a copy of SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER here at Amazon.com

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Inspirations: House on the High Ground

The mysterious Janus House that appears in SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER is a direct relative of anotehr fantastical abode, that of Evenmere, the High House, as witnessed in author James Stoddard's magical 1998 novel THE HIGH HOUSE.

That book was a revelation for me, when I first read it, as it coalesced many themes and devices that appealed to me all in one novel. Evenmere is a Victorian/Edwardian-era mansion that seems to encompass the workings of the universe and is rumored to have been built by God Himself. Young Carter Anderson returns to the High House after having been exiled from it as a boy, seeking his lost father and discovering a legacy that the House may hold for him.

for those who look for fantasy novels off the beaten path, I can't recommend this book more highly.

THE HIGH HOUSE on Amazon

The sequel, THE FALSE HOUSE, on Amazon

Stoddard has also re-imagined the classic novel THE NIGHT LAND, by an author we both admire, William Hope Hodgson. Hodgson is also the creator of Carnacki the Ghost-Finder, a character that inspired Sgt. Janus, so its very cool to me how this has all come full-circle.

THE NIGHT LAND on Amazon

I sincerely hope that you may seek out these books and delve into an author who's deserving of your time...and really needs to write more books.

All content (c) Jim Beard 2012

Explore Janus House in SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER here on Amazon.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

MARS NEEDS WRITERS...

...because why else would they take Ray Bradbury from us?

My dear Uncle Ray was a huge inspiration for me and he will be sorely missed. Of a breed they just don't make anymore.

SGT. JANUS salutes him and wishes him well on his newest and perhaps greatest journey to the stars.

Ray Bradbury

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

More News from the MOUNT AIRY EAGLE

Letters to the Editor

Dear Sir,

After much careful thought I feel very strongly that I must add my voice to the growing number that is currently calling for the wrecking ball to visit the property at No. 4 Raynham Road. While the ill-pedigreed structure was occupied it was an eyesore and a blight on the landscape, but now as it is allegedly abandoned by its owner, it should be quickly razed so as not to become a haven for hooligans and opiate-users. As a community, we should act and act swiftly on this matter.

My family has lived for multiple generations on land that sits adjacent to that of the so-called “Janus House,” and we have more recently suffered for that unfortunate proximity. Roman Janus was a man of questionable background and even more mysterious and dubious profession and his habit of bringing all manner of “clients” to his residence brought to my mind many questions of impropriety and even possible illegalities. Why, once we even witnessed gypsies camping out on his front lawn! Add to that the unexplained noises at all hours of the day and night and the rumors of a woman living in the house with Janus – unchaperoned! – and you have a picture of a situation that could not stand. And, now, I say that the house itself should not stand if its master no longer cares enough for it to occupy it and maintain it. Though, of course, I say he did not maintain it even when he sat in residence there.

Is it not the responsibility of the people of the good town of Mount Airy, a respectable and proper community, to take this matter in hand? I sit on several committees and plan to bring the question up as many times as is necessary so that people will come to realize that we have an opportunity to correct a great injustice to our fair town – and to its citizens. “Janus House” must be demolished. And if it harbors anything of value within its walls, and this I highly doubt, then that property must be rightfully seized by the town and sold as recompense for Mount Airy’s long-standing troubles with Roman Janus. And if that man objects, then he should be brought to task for the obvious disregard in which he holds our community.

Too long has Janus presented his mummery and charlatanism as practices for which we should be thankful to him – let him keep his “ghosts” and “spirits” to himself, and allow decent people to continue their lives unbesmirched by his brand of “service.” And if he has truly abandoned his property, then let it be torn down and bring beauty and tranquility back to the landscape.

Sincerely,

Franklin Parton III

All content (c)Jim Beard 2012

Buy the book here at Amazon.com

Monday, June 4, 2012

Sgt. Janus, List-Maker

SGT. JANUS remains on the New Pulp bestseller list - compiled by Barry Reese from Amazon.com rankings - but dropped a few spots:

New Pulp Bestseller List

And I'm thrilled that people like it; they really like it! :)

Huge thanks to Barry for putting these lists together, week after week. Its something he doesn't have to do, but he does and does with style.

He's got spirit.

All content (c) Jim Beard 2012 - Buy the book and see for yourself: SGT. JANUS on Amazon.com

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Inspirations: Finding & Breaking

SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER owes a very great debt to one single collection of ghost tales: THE CASEBOOK OF CARNACKI THE GHOST-FINDER. I was lead to the book by Alan Moore, in his LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, and spent nine spooky evenings shut up in a quiet reading area all alone, devouring each story.

Hodgson's device here was to have his stories narrated by a young man - basically Hodgson himself - who would, along with a clutch of friends, visit the esteemed Carnacki at the gentlemen's home and be regaled by the latest adventure of the Ghost Finder. So, in effect, they are "stories within stories," a device I tried to emulate to some degree in SGT. JANUS.

Unlike my stories, Carnacki's bulwarks against the darkness sometimes turned out to be very human, very living examples of skulduggery, not actual supernatural phenomenon - but you really didn't know until the end of each story. But, never fear, Carnacki dispatched stupid criminals as easily as pesky poltergeists.

I highly recommend you pick up and dip into THE CASEBOOK OF CARNACKI THE GHOST-FINDER and uncover one of the main wellsprings of inspiration for SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER. Carnacki found 'em, but Janus breaks 'em.

All content (c) Jim Beard 2012

Order SGT. JANUS here: Amazon.com

Saturday, June 2, 2012

New Planet Up Ahead

We are now also on IndyPlanet, and for what the record stores used to call a "nice price"!

SGT. JANUS on IndyPlanet

All content (c) Jim Beard 2012

More News from the MOUNT AIRY EAGLE

ABOUT TOWN WITH YOURS TRULY

Tuesday, January 3rd

A promise was made two days ago here that Yours Truly would spill forth with more salacious details of the New Year's Eve soiree at the Craig Ballroom, above and beyond those of the more mundane variety previously related. Here is that promise delivered, Dear Readers:

Yours Truly, attending deliciously incognito in a borrowed chapeau and garters, witnessed one of Mount Airy’s most popular and, shall we say, bohemian couples, not in a lover’s clench, but in the throes of a decidedly wicked tiff. Such a row! A smattering of its clattering could be heard clear out into the dining room and into the sitting parlors; one wonders what could have brought about such a brouhaha. Mr. K.L. has recently come into quite a neat and tidy sum and Mrs. N.P. does have quite an unruly appetite for dresses and shoes and…oh, Dear Readers, please remember that Yours Truly never said the couple were married. To each other, that is.

And then was spotted, or perhaps glimpsed, Mount Airy’s favorite eccentric and recluse, S.R.J., a man who is only spoken of in hushed whispers and, quite often, nervous titters. Brrr… Yours Truly can still feel the chills even now on her lily-white arms while this missive is being written. Anyway, a stunningly remarkable thing occurred at the soiree concerning the handsome uniformed gentleman: he was seen dancing. And not just dancing, but with an exceedingly lovely girl, the two of them all alone on a semi-private balcony where one could still hear the music – but, fortunately, not the stirrings of war from K.L. and N.P.

Our normally-taciturn S.R.J. seemed quite entranced by the girl, she who was fitted out in a gloriously glowing gown of what appeared to be white silk. In addition, the girl’s nigh-translucent skin and mesmerizing platinum blonde locks suited her gown to a “t” and her matching gloves and shoes were also immaculately appropriate to her ensemble. Yours Truly would go so far as to say she was nothing short of a vision, and S.R.J. would seem to have agreed at that moment. But, here is a troublesome coda to this story: Yours Truly cannot tell you Dear Readers what name this vision answers to, for that little fact remains a mystery. Inquiries were made, questions asked, but, after many blank faces and even blanker memories, not a stitch was uncovered, regrettably. In truth, the girl seems to have disappeared after the Witching Hour, leaving our poor S.R.J. out in the cold, forlorn and…dare we say it…lovelorn?

Oh, it troubles Yours Truly greatly that the girl could not be identified for your edification, Dear Readers. Why, it was almost as if she wasn’t there at all. You don’t suppose…?

Before we become even sillier, let us end this installment and promise to meet again here for more news from high society.

Ta!

All content (c)Jim Beard 2012

Buy the book here at Amazon.com

Friday, June 1, 2012

Johns Joins in the Fun

Today we check in with SGT. JANUS interior artist Eric Johns, a fellow Ohioan and a guy that’s zooming to the top of his field.

Jim Beard: Eric, what's your secret origin as an artist?

Eric Johns: One day my father told me that he didn't care what I did for a career; doctor, lawyer, baseball player, janitor, or thief. (“Thief”? I thought to myself?) He said, just be the best at whatever you choose to be. Be the best. So, I made a definitive choice. Artist! I was going to become an artist! The problem was that my skill level was poor. It's my father that instilled the will to constantly get better. It's a superhero origin, not a villain origin story, you know, for clarity's sake. ;)

Jim: What medium(s) do you prefer to work in and why?

Eric: Pencils are what I'm most practiced in and has the most wow factor. Although I've recently taken to inking my pencils and can't ever seeing going back to just being a penciler.

Jim: What medium did you use for the Janus art and why did you choose it?

Eric: One 2B pencil and an eraser. Truth be told, I'm not certain how this style happened. I simply knew that this is a novel and not comic book art, so the publisher must expect ... something else? So I put pencil to paper and the toned art just happened.

Jim: What were your initial thoughts about the project when you got the gig? How do you feel you did on it, overall?

Eric: My initial thoughts were far different from before I read the script to afterwards. Of course, getting a professional job is always good and there is a happiness in that, but it was an unknown path, I'd never illustrated a prose novel before! After I read the script ... well, I fell in love with the voices in Sgt. Janus, and he maintained his mystery even after I finished the last story. So I went from a little trepidation to attacking these illustrations with the fearlessness of Janus himself. It's my best published work to date.

Jim: Agreed! Do you have a favorite from among the eight illustrations?

Eric: The piece from "Lydia's Lover." There are a lot of nice nuances in that piece. It easily could have been raunchy and harsh, but at first glance it's just a pretty girl, then people look a little further, the sexuality is really understated. I will let the reader find their own images within the image.

Jim: If asked to do the art for a sequel volume, would you do it?

Eric: It's a match made in the spirit-world - of course!

And of course, please check out Eric's work in the book by picking up your own copy of it here: SGT. JANUS on Amazon

All content (c)Jim Beard 2012

Thursday, May 31, 2012

What's in a Name?

Since the release of SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER, I’ve been asked about the origins of the good sergeant’s name – I wish I could say that they are of arcane proportions, but the truth is probably much more mundane.

In all honesty, I don’t fully remember how I came up with it.

I remember jotting down names that came to me while I was imagining the kind of occult hero I wanted to create and, somehow, “Janus” just popped into my head. I’d always like both the sound and look of the name so it went to the top of my list. I knew that it represented the idea of a “two-face,” but it was only later, when I went to dictionary to dig up the etymology, that I found that Janus was the Roman god of gates. More specifically, he oversaw beginnings and transitions.

The gates thing worked great for what I had in mind, so, with a sigh of relief, I had a last name for my hero. But I wouldn’t forget my initial thought of “two-faced” and would build something into the character that truly won’t see fruition until such time as a sequel appears. It’s there, though; deep in the text of SGT. JANUS , SPIRIT-BREAKER, maybe even more so than the “gates” aspect…

One might think it was a logical leap then to christen him with the first name Roman, from the origin of his last name, but it’s really a bit more eclectic than that. He was given the name before I ever discovered that Janus was a Roman god. It was simply kismet once I learned that.

Lemme ‘splain. “Roman” as a first name has always intrigued me, something that goes back to the film ROSEMARY’S BABY for me and the character of Roman Castevet. Now, the actual diabolic nature of Sidney Blackmer’s character doesn’t really have anything to do with it – it’s simply the sound of the name. I don’t know why, but I just really dig it when Ruth Gordon frequently calls out her husband’s name in the move: “Romannn…” See? I told you this was all pretty mundane stuff!

So, then Roman Janus was born. But he still needed a title.

Why? Because characters with military-style titles are cool, man. Always liked them, probably beginning with the real, original Captain Marvel. But, “captain” is overused in fiction, as is “major.” I didn’t want Janus to be as high as a general and lieutenant just didn’t have the ring to it I was looking for, so I went lower on the ranking board and arrived upon sergeant. And seeing as how SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND is one of my most favorite albums of all time, it just clicked with me: Sgt. Roman Janus. Perfect.

And it’s always “Sgt.” unless he’s being referred to without his name, ala “sergeant.”

There you have it, the “mysterious” foundations beneath the newest proto-pulp hero!

Purchase the book here on Amazon and see what exactly is in a name.

All content (c)Jim Beard 2012

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Spirited Signing

The very first signing for SGT. JANUS has been scheduled:

BOOK SIGNING @ TOLEDO'S OWN TONY PACKO’S

Tony Packo’s Cafe is proud to announce a signing for local Toledo author Jim Beard’s new book, SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER

Saturday, June 16th - Noon to 4pm @ The Original Tony Packo’s Café, 1902 Front St. Toledo, Ohio http://tonypackos.com

A GREAT FATHER’S DAY GIFT!

The author will also be joined by SGT. JANUS illustrator Eric Johns, a fellow Ohioan

Get your copies while supplies last – for each book purchased at the signing, you will receive a free Tony Packo’s Hungarian Hot Dog!

One free hot dog per purchased book, no limit. Free hot dog offer only available day of signing – must present paid receipt for book when ordering hot dog, eat-in or to-go.

All content (c)Jim Beard 2012

Buy the book here at Amazon.com

The Haunt of Herndon

Today we check in with SGT. JANUS cover artist, the shockingly cool and talented Jeff Herndon. You can check out his work at http://www.facebook.com/TheArtofJeffHerndon and http://www.jeffherndon.com/

Jim Beard: Jeff, what's your secret origin as an artist?

Jeff Herndon: There really isn't much of a secret origin in my artistic roots. My Mom had a talent for drawing and my Father, who can't draw a straight line with a ruler is a very creative person none the less. I grew up drawing all the time. I wanted to be Drew Struzan and hang out with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Drawing was such a huge part of my childhood that I remember when I was about to fail math in the seventh grade. My parents took my art supplies away. I passed the next math test, brought my grade up and got my supplies back. I went through such withdrawals though...it was like someone being forced to quit smoking cold turkey. So drawing was a big deal from a very young age. My parents have always encouraged me to pursue my passion. Many artists don't have the support system I have, I am blessed to always be surrounded by people who believe in me.

Jim: What medium do you most prefer to work in?

Jeff: I don't really have a preferred medium. I was fortunate to have been taught by an artist that encouraged me to become versatile in many mediums. I like to work digitally, because it's fast. But I'm rarely satisfied with digital results. There are some fantastic digital artists out there and I love what they do...I just don't think it's my forte. I enjoy watercolor, it makes sense to me. Right now I'm focusing on becoming a better oil painter. I have such respect for the great oil painters out there past and present. At the end of the day though, nothing feels more natural than a pencil on paper. It's simple and effective. And every once in a while I can surprise myself with it.

Jim: What medium did you do the Sgt. Janus cover in? And how long did it take?

Jeff: I painted the Sgt Janus cover digitally. At the time I had a full plate with commissions and given that I still have a full time job and can only paint at night and on the weekends, being smart with my time and meeting deadlines is of the highest importance. I probably spent somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 hours on the painting. Unlike most of my digital work, I was very pleased with the finished product.

Jim: What were your initial thoughts about the project? How do you feel it went, all together?

Jeff: I was interested in the project from the get go. I enjoyed the subject matter and the time period. I think that's what makes the cover a successful one, I enjoyed it. It's always fun to design and paint a pulp cover. I was never much for painting wine bottles and grapes. I like heroes, villains and dames.

Jim: Do you like the spooky stuff most of all when it comes to art? If so, why is that?

Jeff: I enjoy spooky subject matter. I enjoy lots of genres actually, but often times I can really dig into an image that's spooky or slightly disturbing. The key is I'm laughing the whole time I'm doing it. I've never been a really rebellious person. I didn't get in trouble much, I don't wear all back and smoke cigarettes. From the outside I look like a regular joe. But when I get to paint something that's a bit off kilter, that's when I get to rebel. That's when I get to vent a bit. That's when I get to show people that I'm a bit different. It has nothing to do with how I dress or how I act. I get to show it in a pretty unique way and hopefully I'm entertaining my audience at the same time.

Jim: If asked to do a cover for a Sgt. Janus sequel, would you do it?

Jeff: Of course I'd do a Sgt Janus sequel if I was asked. Being someone who aspires to be a full time illustrator, you never turn down work! But besides that fact, as I said before, I enjoy the characters, time period and the spooky nature. I would be proud to continue covering Sgt Janus.

Jim: Thanks, Jeff!

All content (c)Jim Beard 2012

Buy the book here at Amazon.com

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

More News from the MOUNT AIRY EAGLE

'SPIRIT-BREAKER' NABS CROOKS

Early Edition - Tuesday, May 29

At approximately 3:40 on the morning of May 29, Mount Airy police officers took one Kenneth Shabbinski, of No. 8 Lionel Street, into custody. He was subsequently charged with breaking-and-entry and assault at the Jehovah Precinct Station. Mr. Shabbinski was seen to have had bruising on his face and a broken finger on his left hand.

Deputy Police Commissioner Dimple told our reporter that officers were called to the Playdium Theater at 1958 Front Street in the early morning hours by a complaint from the owner of a neighboring establishment, the Bells & Whistles. The complaint concerned “strange noises, like moans and shrieks” issuing from the Playdium. The complainant, who had stayed open late for the holiday, said that he knew the Theater had closed for the night and that no such noises should be heard on its premises while not open for business.

Upon entering the premises, the officers encountered one Sgt. Roman Janus, of No. 4 Raynham Road, who claimed he was “investigating a spirit infestation” at the Playdium. The officers recognized the sergeant as Mount Airy’s well-known “spirit-breaker,” a reputed hunter of ghosts, and a frequent police consultant. Determining that Janus was not the source of the noises, they were then confronted with Mr. Shabbinski and a lady friend, Miss Idalene Montrose, of no fixed address. The gentlemen told the officers that he and Miss Montrose had been imbibing heavily not an hour or so before and that they had “slipped into the Theater for a bit of fun.” He further explained that this was the source of the odd sounds heard by the owner of the Bells & Whistles. Sgt. Janus then reportedly informed the officers that Mr. Shabbinski was, in fact, lying and that he was on the premises to rob the Playdium’s box office of its receipts. These accusations were supported, said Janus, by “messages from the spirit world,” given to the sergeant on the spot.

Mr. Shabbinski took umbrage to the accusations and assaulted the sergeant. Before the officers could act, Janus had defended himself and produced bruising on his assailant’s face and broken his finger. Mr. Shabbinski was then taken into custody and later charged. Miss Montrose was also apprehended and charged with aiding and abetting. Bail has not yet been set for either of the accused.

After the incident, Sgt. Janus told the police that “the Playdium is a vortex of immeasurable super-natural proportions” and that it “must be sealed off for fear of further spirit infiltration.”

All content (c)Jim Beard 2012

Buy the book here at Amazon.com