Mercy available from Amazon in print and kindle

Monday, March 9, 2020

T. Fox Dunham talks about writing Mercy, his horror medical thriller based on his violating experiences while going through the treatment for lymphoma. 

Horror author T. Fox Dunham tells the story of his medical horror thriller, Mercy, published by Blood Bound Books. Fox channels his invasive battle with cancer into the horror metaphor Mercy and shares his insights into the book on his show What Are You Afraid Of? Horror & Paranormal Show.


Finding Peace by Writing about Cancer

Finding Peace by Writing about Cancer

T. Fox Dunham

When I write about cancer, especially my horror work, I employ metaphors. These metaphors explore the various forces a cancer patient must endure through treatment and life after remission. I have used my writing to heal, writing such work as my novella New World for May December Books or my new novel, Mercy—a horror novel about the life of a cancer patient in hospital. The many stories and novellas I've written about cancer have served as a catharsis, a way to process my experience and understand it. I work to explore the emotions I've felt and to share those emotions with other patients and their family members. In my story, Welcome to the World Mister Smiles, I cover these component themes of living with cancer. Welcome to the World Mr. Smiles is a means for me to heal and to help myself and others find expression through symbol, theme and metaphor.

First, we start with the story conflict. Jai Chropra is a young man facing a death sentence. For all of his life, he believed that cancer happened to other people; and he'd be immune. Now it's happened to him, and as it did with me. It shifts his perspective in to a state of spurious reality. The world no longer feels. The laws physics don't make sense, yet he's under constant threat of death. To endure this mind state, he detaches from reality and numbs himself. 

He begins undergoing preliminary treatment testing, including a Gallium scan. The technician injects you with a radioactive isotope dye that is absorbed into cancer cells then scans the body with a receptor plate. This is a way to determine if you have tumors in your body, and they show up as white blobs on the monitor. When I had to go through this test, I thought the white blobs looked like clouds, nebulous and formless; and the mind sees patterns. I saw faces swirling in the hoary masses, and I realized that the cancer was alive, maybe possessing dark spirit. I had assigned it vindictiveness; darkness, evil, yet these were human qualities I personified the cancer with. It felt easier being a menace, something with an evil plot, because then I could fight it. Really, it's just a disease, and there's nothing I could personally do to fight it. But I needed to feel some kind of control, some way I could influence. In the story, the cancer begins to talk to Jai, and he responds. The cancer has a face. It has a name. And it can be killed. He no longer feels out of control. Cancer patients need to feel they have some kind of control of their disease, and they often trick themselves into believing it. Really, it's entirely out of our hands.

And it is alive. We personify things, contribute spirit and animation and personality to forces like disease. This too is about control. What can be controlled can’t hurt us. The reality is that almost everything in this universe is out of human control, so we live in this fantasy that somehow we can affect reality, change the course of events, even stop our death. This story is not so much a horror as it is a fantasy. I would love to give my disease a face and hands and a heart in which I could stab it. I want to be able to fight it on my terms, to argue with it. In my story, the cancer has will and a soul—and an appetite. Its nature is to feed. Even though it is horror, this element gives me some peace. Jai finds a way to evict the offending appendage from his body. It wants to be free. It speaks to him and demands to be free, to feed on life, to hunt. They make a deal, and he cuts his body wide and releases it. Their deal made, he goes off to try to live a normal life, but it haunts him. This is another reality for the cancer patient. Even if the caner is defeated, it sleeps, it waits, never too far from the mind of the patient. We don’t stop thinking about it. It never gets easier. We just find a new way to life with it, but always it’s never far. In Jai’s situation, he learns that the tumor he shed from his body is now killing and eating children. It is his responsibility. He birthed the monster. He gave it away even though he knew what it would do. It wasn’t wrong of him. He wanted to live. He wanted his life, his chance. It may not have been noble, but we can forgive him that.

And then he’s haunted. Oh yes. I had my radiation at Penn. They had many of the severe cases down there, especially children suffering this disease. I saw many of them. I played with them. And so many didn’t survive. And it haunts me. I feel guilty for living. Survivor’s guilt, as if I shed my cancer, and it killed them. Survivor’s guilt compels so much of my life, and whatever I do is never enough. The ghosts haunt him. They ask him why? And they intrude on the spurious security he’s created as he goes on with his life. No matter what he does, the children return night after night, and he’s going insane.

Finally, he decides to take action. This is another fantasy for me, something for which I wish I had remedy. The cancer is alive. It has a soul. He determines to trap it, using a mechanism he learned of in their encounter. They’re both living on borrowed time. This too is a metaphor. I was never supposed to survive my rare cell types of lymphoma, and I can’t help feeling like this is extra time—time that’s running out. If he can bring the monster back into his body, time will catch up, and they’ll both sicken and die. He can’t endure the guilt anymore, and the burden of the fantasy of his long life is too much to live with. He decides to give himself peace and take the monster with him.

This too is my desire. I long for the peace of ignorance. I’m tired of carrying this monster, and I wish I could do something to resolve the guilt. I have poured these emotions into a metaphysical script. That’s the heart of modern magick, and it doesn’t give me peace; however, at least it helps the pain for a little while.

And I keep writing and running from it. 

T. Fox Dunham lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Allison. He’s a lymphoma survivor, cancer patient, modern bard and historian. His first book, The Street Martyr, was published by Gutter Books. A major motion picture based on the book is being produced by Throughline Films. Destroying the Tangible Illusion of Reality or Searching for Andy Kaufman, a book about what it’s like to be dying of cancer, was recently released from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing and Fox has a story in the Stargate Anthology Points of Origin from MGM and Fandemonium Books. Fox is an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and he’s had published hundreds of short stories and articles. He’s host and creator of What Are You Afraid Of? Horror & Paranormal Show, a popular horror program on PARA-X RADIO. His motto is wrecking civilization one story at a time. & Twitter: @TFoxDunham

Writing the Modern Ghost Story Based on a True Story!

Writing the Modern Ghost Story Based on a True Story!
Written by T. Fox Dunham

Reader expectations change as genres and tropes evolve, and as authors, we must be in touch with current expectations. Over the last three years, producing episodes of What Are You Afraid Of? Horror & Paranormal Show, I’ve studied the modern true ghost story. People from around the world send in their paranormal experiences, and our voice actors record them into segments. Through my study, I’ve gained an insight into what modern audiences expect from ghost stories. I describe these elements to aid authors in understanding the preferred concepts when they create their own narratives. This is not an all-inclusive article, covering every aspect of the ghost story. I focus on the ‘based on a true story’ version, but I can confidently say that modern audiences will no longer be satisfied with a retelling of a classic Poe story.

Humans frighten and comfort themselves by telling ghost stories. In Homer’s The Odyssey, Odysseus journeys to the underworld in a spiritual adventure that brings the living and the dead into forbidden contact. Another early ghost story from around 50 AD comes to us from Pliny the Younger. Pliny describes a ghost bound in chains that haunts a house in Athens, which of course becomes an archetype in literature. Jinn, ghouls and corpses frequent the stories of One Thousand and One Nights, known as Arabian Nights, and the 11th century Japanese work, The Tale of Genji tells several ghost stories, including some early tales of spirit possession. Hamlet is essentially a ghost story as Hamlet’s father drives him to seek justice against his uncle. As a boy, Irving’s classic tale of the headless Hessian soldier kept me awake many nights. And of course, we all know Poe essentially founded the modern American ghost narrative. The ghost story continued to be told through history, finding a golden age during the Victorian period, which petered out at the start of World War I. It then found renewal in the era of cinema and modern literature. I could go on writing about the myriad examples of the manifestations of ghostlore, but this article focuses on the modern ghost story and how it has changed.

Ghost stories aren’t just happening on paper. The ghost story exists in every small town with a creepy abandoned house. Families tell stories of dark figures walking through walls and footsteps in the dead of night. The ghost story is an essential part of our modern mythology, and to be able to write a good ghost story, we must recognize the part these pieces of folk culture have played in our cultural consciousness and how it has evolved.

Ghost stories excite us in a different way than other mediums, especially the stories we believe are true. They give us a hint into the greatest mystery of humankind: what comes after? Ghost stories reassure us and offer an insight into our own futures. They promise immortality.

Storytellers have woven many myriad themes into ghostlore, though one common element resonates in every story: the transgression of the barrier between the world of the living and world of the dead. The forbidden contact—the spill of one disparate world into the other—generating an imbalance that creates disturbances in the living world. A barrier has been established, a wall, the silver veil in Celtic mythology, and natural law forbids us to breach this wall. Consequences follow that upset both life and the afterlife, and these ripples form the essence of a ghost story. We aren’t meant to see beyond death, and when we intrude upon it, we upset both our lives and the fabric of the current world. In a modern context, we find these stories even more disturbing and exhilarating. The best example is the story of the Lutz family.

The Amityville Horror changed the ghost story, defining the modern version. The majority of modern ghost stories in the west draw elements from this supposed account, founding a new element to the market. Before the story, audiences were content to enjoy stories drawn from hazy history or pure fiction. Now they get an extra thrill when a story is said to be true; though, much license is often taken in that process from the authentic story to the bookstore or theater. I know the story well. It compelled me to write horror. Sometime before dawn on November 13 1974, Ronald DeFeo Jr, the eldest of a good Catholic family in Amityville, New York, went from room to room in their reproduced colonial home and killed his parents and siblings with a shotgun. After being arrested for this brutal crime, Ronnie claimed that voices in the house compelled him to murder his family. Illogical details supported his story. For example, all the family members were killed while lying prone in their beds, even though Ronnie had to climb two floors to finish his work. No one reacted to the blast of the shotgun and seemed to wait for their fate. The murders disturbed the peaceful community, but no one attributed the crime to supernatural sponsors. One year later, the Lutz family buys the home at a reduced price and moves into the property. They form the core of the typical American unit, good quiet religious folk seeking a good life. Within the first week, unexplainable events disturbed the rhythm of their daily lives. Toilets flushed black ooze. An imaginary friend, a pig, caused havoc. Dark visions haunted the family. Over the next 28 days, the dark disturbances built, terrorizing the family and changing their dynamic until finally forcing them to flee the home, leaving all their possessions. To move on with their lives and heal from these traumatic events, George and Kathy Lutz with the help of author Jay Anson, penned a book that created a major media storm—something you’d want to do if you desire to move on from a traumatic period in your lives.

112 Ocean Avenue–Site of the infamous Amityville Horror

The Amityville Horror set the tone for the western industry and created the concept of the ‘demonic’ infestation. Before these oddly dramatic events, ghost lore mainly featured the dead, souls of the living who had died and remained with us. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Exorcist, which was also ‘based’ on a true story. The Amityville model, as I’ll call it, revolves around a demon or supreme and powerful dark entity—a demon being the most common, drawn from Christian religion. You can see versions of this theme in movies like A Conjuring, which was based on the travels of famed paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, who also pretty much created this sub-genre. Of course, money is to be made. The paranormal is popular and generates revenue. Cable television has jumped on this trend, and we now have channels devoted to the ‘true’ paranormal.

As cable diversified, channels like A&E and Discovery found a market in the supernatural. Shows like A Ghost Story or My Ghost Story indulged niches as paranormal documentaries, feeding off the majority of shared ghost encounters in the western world. The show, A Haunting, followed the model of the classic dark ghost story, telling Amityville-like stories under an hour. As producer and one of the hosts of What Are You Afraid Of? Horror & Paranormal Show, I have interviewed many guests from these shows, especially A Haunting, and I’ve gained an insight into this growing television genre. Shows like Sci-fi’s Ghosthunters and all the follow-ups take us one step further, showing us haunted disturbances in real time. These documentaries take us one step closer to ‘based on a true story’, though keep in mind these shows are still edited and filled with suggestion, defining our expectations. They all follow a certain model or dramatic pattern. Don’t let the promise of a true account fool you. These elements have been edited, sifted, ordered and embellished to tell you a story. Most real ghost stories don’t follow classic sine waves of plot, starting as a disturbance and then rising to a climax. It’s usually a series of events of varying intensity that end when the occupants move. Audiences don’t find that very entertaining, and trust me, marketing and profit drive this genre as it does fantasy, action or science-fiction, often at the expense of the original author who demands the veracity of their experience.

There’s a difference between stories of true hauntings and ghost stories. Ghost stories, such as the accounts of paranormal story collector, Mark Nesbitt of Gettysburg, tell a shorter story of witnessed events that happen randomly and without a plot climax. Visitors of the Gettysburg Historic Site witness brief scenes of grey and blue soldiers fighting on Cemetery Ridge or even of freakish creatures like the bearded man of Devil’s Den. Many haunted house accounts talk about random phenomena that doesn’t really tell a story. Footsteps are heard. Plates are moved. Voices whisper over amplifiers. Sometimes ghosts are seen. It never climaxes or turns malevolent. Then you have the long story of the demonic haunting, which takes place as I described above.

Most stories of demonic hauntings are exaggerated or completely fictional. I’ve come to believe this after personally interviewing many authors of paranormal books who were the subject of a ‘demonic’ attack. I find many of the details sensational, usually not backed up by the account of events and without verification. That’s fine. I tell people we’re not here to verify the stories. We just share them, whether true or not. And, it’s not only the authors who deceive. Sometimes, they believe their stories, and perhaps they are true, and it’s the publisher or media company that edits their story to create a frightening episode. I’ve spoken to many authors who have had their stories dramatized for television who feel duped. Their stories were edited, changed to make good television. Real ghost stories don’t follow a classic plot buildup. There’s no final battle. No rising climax. No great battle of good and evil. The afterlife such as in life doesn’t perform like a play. Stuff happens. It doesn’t happen. Then it does. Many sincere paranormal investigators lament this. I can’t find one investigator, who isn’t serving financial motives or fame that can claim encountering a demonic force. The stories start out with lighter paranormal events and just exaggerate. As Bill Reap of Reap Investigation said on a recent episode:

“Oh that’s the ghost of Uncle Jimmy. He was a bad-ass in life. Always causing trouble . . . (a couple of ghost hunters and editors later) Oh Uncle Jimmy is a demon now!” This is from episode 85 REAPER of What Are You Afraid Of? Horror and Paranormal Show I did with Bill Reap. Bill is the founder of the Pennsylvania paranormal investigation group, R.E.A.P. and has been investigating ghosts for many years. In a recent interview for the show website, Bill shares his insight into how the ghost story has changed. “The classic ghost story has evolved into something more frightening. It has become very dark in nature, not to say ghost stories haven’t always been dark. There is more of a scare at their core or foundational scare.”

When I approach someone who worked with one of these television shows, I am often treated with suspicion and apprehension. Many victims of hauntings see their involvement as financial windfalls, and they go off to write a book about their story, cashing in on a growing market. Their dreams come true when a cable channel asks them to tell their story, and they recklessly trust the producers with their reputations. They sit in some studio, narrate their experiences, giving credibility to the show, but they’re not shown the final version of the episode. Producers take liberties to dramatize their stories. They create events on the visual version that follow up the testimony of the authors, and the audience infers that these events are being told by the author. For example, the author can talk about a cleansing ritual being done—another common element in the pattern of story. They’ll end that particular narrative by saying something along the lines of ‘and you could feel the energy in the house fighting us.’ This close-up of the narrator then changes to the filmed scene of the actors. Doors slam. People are thrown about. Demonic faces gnash at the family. We assume the narrator confirms that these things happened. The authors have no idea this was added, and their credibility is wounded as skeptics rip into the exaggerated narrative. This is the blending of the ‘true story’ into the fictional narrative. True ghost stories aren’t entertaining and fall short of the complex narrative form that we’ve evolved, so to tell a good story, elements are changed to follow a specific pattern.

After interviewing many guests and reviewing television shows and books based on true hauntings, I’ve learned the common paradigms in each account. For the authors reading this article, these elements should form the basis of your narrative, though you should know where to vary in order to create a unique story. It always starts with a family of unsuspecting people moving in to some old house in a small town, either starting out a life or recovering from some destabilizing event such as divorce or flood. The family is usually innocent, casually religious and neither believes or disbelieves in the supernatural; though, by the end of the story, their emotional journey makes them into believers and opens their minds to a greater universe. Sometimes the spirits are triggered by the use of some ‘occult’ device such as a séance or dabbling into ‘black’ magic. That’s another classic trigger and usually operated by children or misguided adults. A series of small and unexplainable events begin to occur such as phantom footsteps, doors closing, strange voices that is shrugged off by the family. These then begin to escalate to reveal an evil presence seeking to harm the family. They present classic demonic elements such as shadow figures, claw marks, foul smells, threats of death, strange creatures, usually focusing on some young and vulnerable member of the family. At some point, a curious family member seeks answers and somehow finds specific evidence of tragedy about the property. Tragedy always gets the blame for haunted sites. Finally, driven by desperation, the family seeks the help of a paranormal investigation group that then comes in with their gadgets, gathers evidence and then announces the presence of a demon. The family is then referred to some religious group or element that comes in, does some sort of blessing or exorcism triggering a violent war. At the end of this cleansing, either the house is free of its possessing elements or the family is driven out. These stories thrive on discovery a clandestine logic that drives the haunting. That’s the mystery element of the ‘true’ haunting. Why is the spirit doing these things?

Nearly every dramatized ghost story follows this pattern. This is what the audience prefers: the classic battle of good and evil, fighting Satan’s soldiers! It’s all quite dramatic and compelling, but it is fiction. Cable peddles it as ‘true’, even though it can cause harm to families subject to real phenomenon. I keep hearing from serious ghost hunters how it has changed what they do, even endangering people who believe they are the subjects of a haunting. I talked to Bill about how cable television has changed the nature of paranormal investigation.

“The paranormal genre of television has really opened the belief in the paranormal. Life interprets art and influences the way that investigation is done. Television is sometimes mimicked. Sometimes it’s good sometimes not so good. I believe the media influences families responses because they have main-streamed the events and made it more acceptable. Some TV shows will pay to have those stories so we’re not always getting the full truth from some people, which is why the investigation side is so important. Does it make the situation more dangerous? That’s a two-sided question. The family itself can make things worse or an inexperienced team can make things worse and the family itself can also worsen the situation.”

As professional authors, we must be tuned into changes in the market. Ghostlore remains a popular and vibrant genre, and as such, it’s always evolving based on what’s popular with audiences. The genre has changed as the cinema and cable popularize the concept of the true ghost story, though often the final versions of these stories have been dramatized near to the point of fiction. If authors hope to contribute successful narratives to this field, they must be aware of the current trend of story elements audiences expect in the modern ghost story. Writing fiction inspired by Poe isn’t going to cut it anymore for the refined modern taste. Only stories based on narratives that possess specific elements and a verisimilitude will prove successful. Audiences don’t just want to enjoy a good ‘Boo’. They want to believe it too.


T. Fox Dunham lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Allison. He’s a lymphoma survivor, cancer patient, modern bard and historian. His first book, The Street Martyr, was published by Gutter Books. A major motion picture based on the book is being produced by Throughline Films. Destroying the Tangible Illusion of Reality or Searching for Andy Kaufman, a book about what it’s like to be dying of cancer, was recently released from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing and Fox has a story in the Stargate Anthology Points of Origin from MGM and Fandemonium Books. Fox is an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and he’s had published hundreds of short stories and articles. He’s host and creator of What Are You Afraid Of? Horror & Paranormal Show, a popular horror program on PARA-X RADIO. His motto is wrecking civilization one story at a time. & Twitter: @TFoxDunham

Sunday, October 9, 2016


Affordable Care Act
For release to new sources.
MARCH 2016
T. Fox Dunham

I wrote this piece in support of the Affordable Care Act for the Joe Sestak campaign for Pennsylvania, and it was published by a major newspaper in the state. Joe didn't make it, but the words are true. 

The Affordable Care Act saves lives. It requires work, but to repeal it would be a death sentence for millions of Americans including myself. Because of the ACA, the poor and sick no longer need live in fear. 

The #ACA was a humanitarian breakthrough in equal healthcare. It removed restrictions that inflicted suffering and financial hardship on sick and poor families. The act ended discrimination against Americans with pre-existing conditions, which had become a death sentence. You can no longer exceed a lifetime annual coverage amount, which meant that once your healthcare cost x-amount, they could legally just leave you to die. The ACA keeps #Medicare solvent through 2030. When the act became law, the cost of healthcare dropped to its lowest rates in half a century. In 2014, the number of uninsured adults dropped for the first time. Fewer adults reported difficulties paying medical bills or had medical debt, or delayed medical care because of costs.

At 16, doctors diagnosed me with Lyme Disease. Two years later, surgeons removed a malignant tumor from below my ear, initiating a life-long battle with cancer. I need low medical costs to survive. I support Admiral Joe Sestak for Senate because he fights to protect the ACA, to protect me and my family. Joe will prevent the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. He got into this fight because of his daughter, Alex. Like Alex, I was given a small percent chance to live if I underwent intense chemotherapy and radiation that would leave me struggling with medical issues and disability for the rest of my life. In September, the cancer grew back in my neck. Surgeons cut it out. Now, my wife and I wait. We worry over healthcare. Without the ACA, debt would destroy our future, and I would become a second-class citizen. We wouldn’t be able to afford even basic medications.

Allow me to explain our medical system in the west. Healthcare comes down to three components: diagnosis, surgery and medication. Prescriptions are the foundation of treatment. Recently, I fought with my insurance company to get a medicine that would greatly ease my symptoms thus improving the quality of my life. After several attempts and switching brands, wasting my and my doctor’s time, we settled for an inferior version. If I had better healthcare, my symptoms would be treated, and I would be a healthier member of society, thus making the country stronger. Joe’s plan would permit Medicare to bargain with the drug companies, lowering prices, saving Medicare 123$ billion by 2023.  He would lower the prohibitive costs of drugs for families by allowing people to import drugs from Canada, a practice that has already saved $400 per person in states that have had to wisdom not to punish their citizens with import restrictions. And finally, he would end a criminal practice by drug manufacturers. I would have been able to get those drugs if a generic brand was manufactured; however, drug companies are paying their competitors to hold off on producing generics. This is called ‘pay for delay’, costing consumers and taxpayers 3.5$ billion every year. CEOs like Frank Baldino of Cephalon are far more interested in patent-protection” instead of “patient protection. He generated 4 billion dollars in sales by paying off other competitors to keep generic forms of the sleep aid Provigil off the market. He, like most Big Pharma, profit from negligence and pain. It can’t continue. We need a change.

I don’t trust Pat Toomey with my family’s healthcare. Toomey voted in December for a plan to phase out the Medicaid expansion for low-income Americans. This would undercut healthcare for 430,000 vulnerable Americans: working families, the elderly, pregnant woman who are single-moms, low-income children as well as veterans. Toomey’s vote would have removed those Americans from protections against pre-existing condition discrimination and “lifetime limits” on cost of care. He even shut down the government to kill the ACA. As an American fighting cancer for the rest of my life, I cannot trust this man with my future and health. If he had been successful, I couldn’t have paid for the lifesaving surgery I needed in September, thus widowing my wife before we saw our first anniversary. 

Obamacare is not perfect, but it’s the first viable solution presented in decades of debate and stalemate. The sick and poor don’t need to suffer. We are better than this. As a wealthy country, we have the chance to create a compassionate and great society. The ACA isn’t perfect. But less people die. Less people suffer. And the quality of life for poor families has improved. With study and adjustment made by the right people in office, it can work. We, the sick, no need longer be terrified of the future.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Membership's Responsible For Making The Horror Writers Association Better

The Real Strength is in the Membership
My thoughts on the conflict with the Horror Writers Association
I have grown more and more disturbed over the recent turmoil in the author’s organization, The Horror Writer’s Association. I have been an active member for a few years now. Joining it, meeting its obligations as a professional author, was a dream. Last night, I seriously considered washing my hands of the entire group. Many allegations have been raised—and I am sorry to anyone who was hurt. If I had known, I would have helped. We blame our leadership. We raise grievances that aren’t heard. I have been dissatisfied over time that they failed to protect us or provide us with the support we required. But then I realized, the blame is not with our leaders. They are just the lightning rods. The real issue—the real power is with us, the core membership. We have looked too often to the top when we are also the problem. 

Writing is an insecure business, especially when the competition is so numerous and the substantial markets dwindle. We all want to succeed in that great notion of both accolade and recompense. But dreams can also make us selfish, especially the fear of not having them fulfilled. Every author—every artist suffers and nurtures the secret insecurity that they have no real talent, and this makes us desperate. We struggle, compete and fight for limited venue, and this inherently sabotages the hope of union, of a collective force of artists helping one another. Then we cut corners. We sacrifice too much. We empower bad publishers, leaders, chimeras, as I called them in Atlanta, when they tap into this insecurity. How many of us in that need for validation have compromised our professional ethics even just a little, accepting terms and behavior in the hopes of putting a crack in that wall that holds us back from our dream? This infects the Association, rotting it out from the core. Yes, our trust was misplaced, and some of our influential members have let us down; however, we allow too much unprofessionalism because of it. Now the castle is falling.

My point. Blame isn’t an arrow or a finger pointing. It’s a circle. The HWA must become a guiding light to its members, providing support, facilitating communication. But we as its members must also rise above temptation and act like professionals, creating better standards to form a collective bargaining force. Look to yourselves to create something better in your own actions. And to those who have always been professional, I salute you, but don’t be too hard on others. They have not had the chances and luck you have had. Help them. We need to help each other more.
T. Fox Dunham

Tuesday, April 5, 2016


“Part medical horror, part supernatural suspense, MERCY is a hard-hitting fever dream of a novel. I enjoyed the hell out of it!” 
~ Tim Waggoner, author of The Way of All Flesh and Eat The Night 

“Pain and poetry flow in equal measure through these pages. Dunham's prose strikes deep and hits all the right notes. MERCY is unforgettably vivid.”
~ David Dunwoody, author of Hell Walks and The 3 Egos 

William Saint is dying of cancer. On most days death seems like a humane alternative to the treatment. Stricken with fever, William is rushed to Mercy—notorious as a place to send the sickest of the poor and uninsured to be forgotten—and finds the hospital in even worse condition than his previous visit. The grounds are unkempt, the foundation is cracking, and like the wild mushrooms sprouting from fissures of decay around it, something is growing inside the hospital. Something dark. It’s feeding on the sickness and sustaining itself on the staff, changing them. And now it wants Willie.
In Dunham’s prose and imaginative sequences, engaged readers will no doubt frequently find a mirror for their own hopes, fears and searching. His horrific ordeal is channeled into a beautiful gift he shares freely in MERCY—if only after he’s given you a taste of the terror required to properly appreciate it.
~ Shawn Macomber at Fangoria Magazine
Make sure to give it a LIKE!

In 2013, I traveled down to New Orleans to attend my first World Horror Convention as a member of the Horror Writers Association. I joined Jay Wilburn as my partner at the Hazardous Press table. On the left of us was Blood Bound Books. On the right, PostMortem Press. Eric and Marc were two of my targets for that event, the reason I had come: to find a solid publisher for my next major work, a publisher who had foundation, not one of the new shooting star firms who burn fast, bright and then sizzled out. I had already sold an story to Blood Bound Books which was similar to my novel concept, so I spent the next day reaching out to them. Finally, it was Marc who pitched my idea to me, and I played it cool, containing my excitement. 

Never let them know how much you want it. 

I ran home and wrote the novel. It took me 14 days, and I confess I wrote it too fast without enough editing. Marc was patient, and after a year of waiting, he sent it back with some core edits. I was still learning how to write long fiction then, working on my book for Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing-- Destroying the Tangible Illusion of Reality or Searching for Andy Kaufman. Marc took his time and helped me create a powerful and solid horror novel, based on my experience with a rare cancer and painful treatment that followed. 

Reading the book now, I realize: 
                       I AM ANGRY. 
                 I AM VIOLATED

This book is about my death. I hope if I write enough books about my death like Andy and Mercy it will satisfy the debt, though Tony Rivera at Grey Matter Press has named me DEATH as part of the Dark Five. We'll be reading on Friday April 8th at 6.45PM at the KGB Bar in NYC. 

This is just one of the many events I'll be reading at in the next 6 months. 

It's not enough to write fantastic work if no one knows it exists. You have to get out there and fight, spending energy, blood and time. Once you've cast the book out onto the sea, you need to give it everything and never give up. Sometimes you must reach one reader at a time until finally the pod you've grown germinates in the chest of your audience. Until then, you are one brilliant and fulgent star in a sky of spilled salt on a black canvas. It is your voice, your appearance, eye contact that makes your book unique. Doing events that reaches your audience is vital.

Click below to see the amazing trailer.

That's the video trailer for the reading on Friday, April 8th in NYC. We will be following it up in Philadelphia. The Dark Five will rise. I'm hosting with What Are You Afraid Of? #Horror & #Paranormal #Podcast will be hosting and featuring a special episode based on the reading. John Foster will be reading from his new book, Mister White, now out from Grey Matter Press. I'll also be reading from The Last Elf and other dark stories from anthologies in which I've been included from Grey Matter Press. This is just the first of many. The Dark Five cometh: John Foster, Shawn Macomber, J. Daniel Stone, Daniel Braum. Organized by Anthony Rivera and Sharon Lawson from Grey Matter Press.


I will be featured in Dread, a reader-voted anthology of the best of Grey Matter Press, with some of the greatest horror authors currently writing featured within its covers. I was honored by this and thank all my readers. I came up with the subtitle: A Head Full of Bad Dreams.


This photo was taken from my reading at the Society Hill Playhouse, Final Curtain for Noir at the Bar. I read from the Street Martyr, my first novel. The book has slept for a year, but after my reading, it jumped in sales. The movie script is done, and now Throughline Films is attaching a director. I just need to hold on, have some faith. It has been a thrill having a movie made from my first book--and certainly a great surprise. Now, I must be patient as they create a great project. Now that MERCY is published, I am moving back to writing crime thrillers set in Philadelphia. I have been studying the history of crime in Philly, and I've been busy writing potential crime series and another novel, American Monarch. More about that in the future. First, I must swim in the darkness and drown on the oil.


So we're building an audience for MERCY. Many reviewers have copies, and in the first few days of release, it's started to build more reviews--a few on Amazon and Goodreads. We have others coming, including some from major magazines. This is an important story. It is my story, and I'm tweeting it, using relevant hashtags to get it to the right audience. I will sing it until it is heard. Will it entertain or upset? There is a difference. A good story upsets but must never disturb. It still must entertain, even if it is not telling all the truth. This has been a difficult distinction for me.

How do we do we make a sell well? I believe the book is good. So how do we up our numbers? Is it just luck, or can you find a current in the great ocean of indie publishing?

The book is my darkness. The burned me, torture me, cut pieces off my body. Doctors are still doing it. I just had a chunk of my neck cut out in September. Doctors are the enemy, and I've never met a loyal physician. If it gets bad for them, they will cut you loose, even if you are in agony. Doctors sacrifice nothing to protect you, and you end up in debt for the rest of your lives when most of the time they're using guess work to cure you.

In my adolescence, I was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma. This was after battling for a year with Lyme Disease that had been misdiagnosed for two years, thus leaving it to dominate my body.  When finally, it had caused severe damage to my brain, heart and nervous system, the unimpeachable college of physicians over-treated it with intravenous antibiotics, driving pick-lines into my arm and a Hickman into my chest. The Hickman nearly killed me when it infected two gram-negative infections into my blood. They never finished treating the Lyme Disease. After trying a blood toxic anti-seizure agent, a golf-ball grew under my ear. After another three months of misdiagnosis, they determined I had suffered a rare kind of blood cancer--Composite Lymphoma. It was two kinds of lymphoma--Hodgkins & Large Cell. Large Cell always kills. And no one had ever survived this complex blood cancer before. My oncologist warned me that the treatment would leave me crippled and in terrible pain if I did miraculously survive. Still, I decided to fight--not for me, but for those around me who needed me to fight. And I would suffer, more so in the soul than body. So many others suffering a similar cancer I would come to love, as my nature dictates They died, just vanished from this world sans divine justification. I suffered intense chemo therapy and 5 months of daily radiation up and down my upper body. They tortured me, stabbed my spine and bone marrow, burned and seared me. It was all medicine, all to get better. I feature all of this in the book. The suffering Willie undergoes was taken directly from what I felt.

I internalized what they did to me to endure it in hopes that one day I might have a life, though they
told me the chances of my survival were minimal. I fought--well endured it--in hopes that I would one day meet someone like Allison and we would have children. That day has finally come, and I am thankful that I suffered so much. Still, it possessed me with many demons. 

Mercy is my attempt to purge what I suffered, my PTSD. I took the darkness and manifested it in monsters. The scariest horror in our lives comes not from zombies or vampires. It comes from true life, which is why we turn to fictional legends. One cell of lymphoma can devour a century of Cthulhu stories, and this has been the source of my horror.

MERCY is the story of a dying man's journey. Willie can't let go, yet he's brought to a hospital that is transforming into a great spore, ready to spread its demonic infection to the world. Willie is haunted by his failure in love, a love that could never happen. He lives in the fantasy of it and ignores the real love that has come to him. He is still quite selfish even though he is dying. Dying makes us more selfish. While he struggles with real and fictional delusions of love, he must endure a menagerie of creatures who feed upon his illness and process him like lamb into veal, preparing his soul to be devoured by an ancient dark god who is gaining entrance to Earth. 

If it comes through the door, all souls are on the menu.

The book is available from Blood Bound Books. My favorite reviewer so far has said the following:

Mercy is wonderful/horrible and beautiful/sick. Its fevered exaggerations alongside shouted sanity that will make you lose yourself in the slipstream of vivid descriptions and noxious horror, then force you to plummet to earth when the moments of truth rip the beauty away to see the ugly underneath. It feels like a much longer read than it actually is (not that that’s a bad thing in this case), and I have very little to critique about it...

From a **** (4 STAR) REVIEW of MERCY
Read the book. Know 'our' pain, what waits for you. Death waits for us all--and you will suffer. However, there is hope. 


 (My wife Allison.)

(She is my hope.)

Know love from the need of love. Know when life loses its value and living only perverts it. This is my truth told in metaphor. 
“Life was an addiction, and he felt desperate for every second. But would it mean anything?”
T. Fox Dunham, Mercy

And leave your thoughts as a review. We authors need this to survive.


I have several events coming up, thus I would like to invite you. And check out the podcast. We have over 12,000 listeners and going strong.


THE DARK ONES RISE II (Philadelphia)

Sunday, 17th April 2016  - 
12PM - 2:30PM

Vinyl Altar 
732 S. 4th Street, Philadelphia PA 19147

Close out Choosing Death Fest weekend in Philadelphia with a afternoon of dark fiction readings and interrogations hosted by Shawn Macomber.

Guests include...

*John Foster, author of the fantastic new grisly thriller, MR. WHITE, contributor to SAVAGE BEASTS

*Sean Fraiser, Decibel scribe, Despumation 2 contributor, and screenwriter of the forthcoming Cloud Burst feature length film HIPSTER MASSACRE

* T. Fox Dunham, author of MERCY -- a tremendous surreal supernatural hospital thriller based on his extensive treatment for a rare form of lymphoma -- and THE STREET MARTYR (soon to be a major motion picture), contributor to SAVAGE BEASTS

*Adam Cesare, author of such bizarre and beguiling novels as ZERO LIVES REMAINING and TRIBESMEN

*Dutch Pearce, Decibel scribe, Despumation 2 contributor, and death metal frontman

*Scott Cole, rising bizarro standout and author of SUPERGHOST

*Shawn Macomber, Decibel/Fangoria/Shock Till You Drop mainstay, contributor to SAVAGE BEASTS, DESPUMATION 2, SHROUD