One of my friends described "Sleeping with Ghosts" as a kind of reverse Dracula story -- where a man goes to the untamed lands beyond so-called civilization and, instead of finding a monster there, discovers that he is the monster within them. I think there's more than a grain of truth to that reading, even though the more conventional monsters take center stage.

When I was building the world for "Sleeping with Ghosts," I was combing the Balkans and the Carpathians for creepy creatures and means to destroy them, from ill-born children who devour their families to the cold efficiency of iron spikes. There are superstitions in Greece and Bulgaria and Macedonia about how to keep children from devouring their families, or to recognize a human intelligence in a wolf's eyes, or how to know a witch in time to keep her from spiriting you away to Hell. The folklore of these lands is one in which anyone, even and especially your loved ones, might be a monster.

While it's fun to take a mythology and replicate it, to build a culture where vampires or witches are real and follow a particular set of rules, it's also important to engage with the questions that a mythology asks of the people who believe in it. The theme of paranoia and ubiquitous monstrosity is what I set out to explore in "Sleeping with Ghosts," and I'd like to spend more time with it as I start writing a novel (novella?) set directly after it. "How far will we go to detect monsters before they can do harm, or to prevent monsters from coming into the world?" these projects ask. "Will we become monsters ourselves?" From the Callicantzaros page on Monstropedia:

To prevent an infant of two mortal parents born during the proscribed Yule Tide season from becoming a callicantzaros, the infant was sometimes held feet down over a fire by one of the parents until the toenails were singed.

Some people, apparently, were willing to go quite far indeed.
 
 
My tag for things set in the same universe as "Sleeping with Ghosts" is "Nothing Goes Right for Yordan Korvechi," which is about as accurate a tag as you're likely to find on the internet. This is not because he is an assassin; holy assassins are regarded as slightly creepy necessary evils in his world, rather like traveling dentists with switchblades. Neither is it because he's a priest, although that certainly means more people are looking to him to fix what goes wrong than would otherwise be the case. By and large he leads an unremarkable life, albeit one where he kills quite a lot of people.

No, I'm forced to believe that Yordan was simply born unlucky. In a world where cold iron wards off the creatures that prowl the forests, a world where soullessness has practical as well as theological consequences, it's odd that "luck" isn't a more prominent concept. Chance, now, chance is a thing; people roll the bones to wager away their wages there as often as they do here. Chance might mean it's your throat cut and not another's, in the cities where death is still infrequent enough to be novel. But luck, the idea that there is some guiding force in the universe that has reached down its hand with the express purpose of fucking up your day, is relatively unknown. There are gods of profit and gods of death, gods of the harvest and gods of the archive, but Lady Fortuna does not rank among them.

Make no mistake, though, Yordan Korvechi is not a lucky man. In "Sleeping with Ghosts," he sets out to commit a murder and instead finds himself solving one--and finding to his vast irritation that, for all his attempted professionalism, he is not ultimately the culprit. When next we join our plucky young priest, he will be attempting to take a seaside holiday with his boyfriend to recover from the death of a friend. Bragava is the perfect resort town for a man with grief to sort through: quiet, slow, and (most importantly) far, far away from anyone he knows.

Unfortunately, the sleepy city by the sea has roused itself from a long slumber and begun to boil with revolutionary sentiment, and Yordan doesn't even have a potholder to his name.

He was definitely planning to get laid more on this vacation.

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Tune in periodically for more updates on how nothing goes right for Yordan Korvechi!