Dario Ciriello

Dario Ciriello

Dario is a professional author, freelance editor, and writing coach. Dario’s fiction titles include Sutherland’s Rules, Black Easter, and Free Verse and Other Stories. His bittersweet travel memoir, Aegean Dream, was an Amazon UK category bestseller. His writing guide, Drown the Cat, is now available in digital and print editions (see below).

Read more on Dario’s website.

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​by Dario Ciriello

foreword by Janice Hardy

Drown the Cat is a complete guide for the fiction writer who wants to develop an individual voice and understand the reasons underlying the so-called rules of writing. Although a few rules really are necessary, the vast majority are either dogma or passing fads. Worse, so much advice like “show don’t tell” and “open with action” is often poorly explained and entirely misunderstood, causing writers no end of problems.

Drawing on fifteen years of writing, critiquing, editing and mentoring experience, Dario Ciriello explodes writing myths, shreds conventional wisdom, and dissects the often misleading advice and diktats shouted at writers by books and blogs, agents and publishers. Drown the Cat gives authors the necessary tools and insights to retake control of their story and make it unique.

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by Dario Ciriello

“A perfectly paced tale of terror and love that you cannot put down.” — Ken Liu, Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy Award-winner and author of THE GRACE OF KINGS


It’s Resurrection Time.

San Francisco antique dealer Paul Hatzis sells his business and rents an old house on the small Greek island of Vóunos. What he doesn’t know is that the house, which has a sinister reputation with the locals, was previously owned by black magician Dafyd Jones who—along with his seer companion Magda O’Whelan, and Klaus Maule, a seriously disturbed colonel in the Waffen SS—made a deal with the demonic, culminating in their planned bodily deaths during the final ritual in 1944.

In return for a lifetime—seventy human years—of service on the frontier of Outer Hell, where all the demons of Hell fight a desperate, eternal battle against inconceivable powers that would consume both the human and demonic spheres, Jones and his companions will be reborn on Earth as powerful immortals…if they don’t go mad first.

As Easter approaches, Paul is preparing to celebrate the biggest holiday of the Greek calendar with his girlfriend, Elleni, and Alex, his adored 18-year old niece. But with the biblical threescore years and ten now up, the magician and his two colleagues are being called back from Hell by the ritual artifact they buried deep in the cellar of Paul’s house.

And all they need are three living human bodies…

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BLACK EASTER – excerpt (note: zauberer = German for magician)

September 28, 1943

It was three days before Maule returned, alone this time, to the stone house.

“Well,” the zauberer said, “it’s gratifying to know you don’t intend to have us shot, colonel. And nothing happens by chance. You arrived on Vóunos for a reason. Come, sit with me.”

The woman entered with tea and a plate of fruit. She set the tray on the coffee table before them and poured, handing Jones and Maule their cups before taking her place in the empty armchair. Her song-red hair fell in a long braid and she wore a simple, calf-length dress of seafoam green, belted at the waist and short in the sleeves. On her feet were plain leather sandals.

“Thank you.” Maule uncrossed his legs and reached forward for his cup, eyes down and hooded from the pair across the table from him. He took a slice of lemon and reached for the sugar bowl. “I have considered our conversation of the other evening.”

“Magda didn’t frighten you away then.” Jones chuckled. “Good, good.”

Maule looked up at the jibe. But the zauberer’s eyes sparkled with good humour rather than mockery. This man is clever. Everything he does is calculated, his every action has purpose. And the woman, this woman who’d so casually breached the ironbound door he’d built in his mind and looked into the darkest recesses of his soul when he’d challenged her, positively terrified him.

He concentrated on holding the saucer steady and getting the cup to his lips without his hands shaking. The quiet in the room was absolute, the blandness of these two deceptive. He could still turn back, And yet…

He plunged forward before his courage failed him. “As I was leaving the other evening, you said we could help one another. Please explain how.”

The woman glanced at Jones, the ghost of a smile on her lips. She was beautiful, yes, but hard and cold—a beauty that held terrors for him. Icicles under moonlight in a hostile land far from home.

Jones smiled and inclined his head, all affability and easy grace. “Of course.” He leaned back in his chair. “What we propose—“ Maule noted the we— “is simple: we need a partner, a Third, to use the correct term, to perform certain advanced magical operations impossible for a duo. Magda and I believe that you are that Third. We would of course train you in the basics—that is all you would need—but you should know there are risks.” When the colonel didn’t flinch, he added, “But the rewards are almost beyond imagining.”

“Name them.”

The zauberer smiled again. “First let us put our cards on the table. Magda’s aims and mine are simple enough: knowledge, and the time in which to pursue our studies to the end; a complete understanding of the cosmos and its workings. You should know that Magda,” he indicated the woman with a gesture, “is in a very real way the purer of us. Her interest is solely metaphysical, her aspirations nothing less than unity with creation. Mine…of course, to understand the workings of the cosmos. Beyond that, I have some thoughts about how I’d like to see the world change.

“But tell us of your dreams, Colonel. If you could have anything you wished, what would that be?”

Maule pursed his lips. “I should like…” He closed his eyes briefly. Of course I would. What else is there to wish for? “I would want to right some wrongs in this world, to correct some mistakes which fools and madmen have made. I still love my country.”

Jones considered this for some moments, but his look was not critical. “You would try to return Germany to the ascendant, then, if you could? To reverse the outcome of this war?”

He understands. Respects, even. Klaus let out a breath. “Yes. So long as I live and breathe. If I had the power.”

Jones appeared thoughtful. “Germany leading a new world. A world,” he mused, “in which all men know their place in the scheme of things, and serve willingly. Where they do not fear death in the service of that which is higher.”

Maule frowned. “I do not follow you.”

The zauberer gave a small nod; seeming far away in thought, he sipped at his tea before going on, holding the porcelain cup as though it were an anchor to the here and now.

“I look at humanity, Colonel, and I see two types of people: herders and cattle. Perhaps one in a hundred can rightly be called herders—those of us who, by both nature and disposition, think and care about the nature of our existence. We are the leaders. Whether magicians or priests, military men or politicians, doctors or engineers…all of us share and exhibit the distinguishing traits of intelligence and curiosity, as well as the determination to further our interests and perhaps even help direct the destiny of our species. Even if we herders are not aligned on specifics, we share these general concerns and ambitions.

“But the mass of humanity, the cattle—and I don’t mean the word unkindly—what of them? What were they put here for? They don’t contribute much, and generally don’t look past their noses. If they care at all for anyone or anything beyond themselves, these feelings typically crumble in the face of self-interest, or at most that of family. They lack vision, understanding. And in a universe where the survival of humanity is always in the balance and only the power of Hell and the single-minded focus of the demonic stands between us and oblivion, that is not acceptable.

“Now, the world of the Aztecs, that of the Egyptians—both were societies where men understood their place in the natural order. Societies in which sacrifice was seen as a duty, even a privilege. Of course, they imagined they were sacrificing to gods, but no matter: the sacrifices had their effect.” He chuckled. “But monotheism, with its attendant perversions—Judaism, Christianity and Islam–that was the folly: sheer, self-serving human arrogance, positing a One God moulded in our image, our feeble species as the pinnacle of creation. The exaltation of the cattle. For centuries, we’ve run the world as if the herders exist to serve the cattle. But show the world the truths of existence, the metaphysical underpinnings of reality, and these childish fantasies will fade as if they’d never existed. And we aren’t short of cattle to supply the motive force for Hell to remain strong.”

The zauberer leaned back in his chair with his hands folded over his belly, and smiled. “So, yes, Colonel, I believe our interests may be twinned, at least for some way along the road.”

Maule could barely breathe. Hope sprang like fire in his breast. “Then you truly believe such a world is possible? A world where the social order is respected by all, and not subverted by the inferior, the ignorant?”

Jones’s smile broadened. “Why not, Colonel? Why not?”