Tag Archives: jessica mchugh

“Rationalizing Crime” by Jessica McHugh


I’ve asked a number of authors I admire to answer the same question–why do criminals fascinate us so much?–and I will be posting each response here on my blog. It’s a question all writers–especially crime writers–should consider every once in a while. In my debut novel, Toxicity, I’ve dug deep into the minds of criminals. I have written about the bad guys. The ones we love but hate at the same time. If you haven’t pre-ordered a copy yet, I highly recommend you doing so for purely selfish reasons.

And now that you’ve done that, we will pass the time hearing what other writers in the industry have to say about the posed question.

Today Jessica McHugh destroys my blog with her essay about rationalizing crime. For those who are new to Jessica’s work, I highly recommend picking up her stripper serial killer novel, PINS, which completely rocked my stripey socks off. I will be publishing her surreal bizarro novel, The Green Kangaroos, through my own small press this August, so be ready for that. Stay updated with Jessica’s work over at her website and Facebook fan page.

What do you have for us today, Jessica?


“Rationalizing Crime”

by Jessica McHugh

Why are criminals so fascinating? Because they’re our neighbors. Because they’re our friends and family. Because they’re us.

We think we could never sink so low, never be anything but “good people,” but anyone can become a criminal when the right shade of desperation beats down the door.

There are obvious motivations behind the choices we humans make when it comes to committing unlawful acts. Sometimes we choose poorly because we’re selfish and shortsighted. Sometimes we choose poorly because we honestly see no other way out. But the obvious motivations aren’t always the strongest.

A knot of history and desire fuels every decision we make, the individual threads of which might remain mysteries—even to ourselves. Those threads are lifelines to criminals and the people who care about them. Tug the right thread, untangle and liberate it, and you might just save someone’s soul. Tug the wrong thread and doom two people in the process: the criminal, who falls harder into the pit, and you, who get to live with the guilt of pushing him over the edge.

The division between good and evil isn’t always clear, especially when it comes to the people we love. Some of us think we can help through enabling, while others think we can help by letting go. It isn’t surprising we get the runaround during those times. We’re flustered, doubting, praying, mourning…and after making an “educated” decision about how to deal with the crimes, our hopes sometimes get so high we don’t notice the criminals continuing to pick our pockets.

It’s why criminals are not the only fascinating ones. By existing, the unlawful world bleeds into the rest of life, notably the lives of those for whom love and hope persists. It’s amazing what crimes we’re able to justify, and what we’re willing to ignore for the right kind of criminal. When your son steals the chainsaw that cost you thousands of dollars and hocks it for fifty, what do you do? When he’s an addict who sold the chainsaw so he wouldn’t feel withdrawal sickness for a day, what do you do? When he’s become an addict because heroin helps him cope with the depression and anxiety that could’ve otherwise been treated with medication he can’t afford, what do you do? Call the police? Call the doctor? Believe him when he says, “It was just this once?” Or do you push it down deep, hoping the horror and sorrow won’t sour your own soul?

This is why we tell their stories: to rationalize their crimes against us. Did they really want to hurt us, or was every bad move made for just one moment of silence before mad desperation continued beating their doors? We hope fiction can give us some insight into those minds, as well as our own. Because although some wouldn’t admit it, we desperately want to know how much we, the “good people,” will tolerate before we answer the rapping at our own doors.

Table of Contents Revealed for Jamais Vu #1

Table of contents for the debut issue of Jamais Vu have now been revealed, with a couple of great surprises, such as the inclusion of my short story, “Video Nasties”. But also, editor Paul Anderson announced Harlan Ellison will have a column included as well. Wow, huh?


In case you haven’t heard yet, Jamais Vu is the new pro-paying quarterly horror journal published through Post Mortem Press (who will be publishing my debut novel, TOXICITY, next year). My story, “Video Nasties”, explores the kind of influence horror films may have on young children. “You made me grab my daughter and hold her close after reading this,” said Jamais Vu’s managing editor, Paul Anderson, upon the story’s acceptance.

But my story isn’t the only thing in this journal. Check out this insane line-up for the debut issue:



1. “The Moors” – Marge Simon
2. “Death of the Crossing Guard” – Bruce Boston
3. “Eventually, You Become Immune” – Stephanie Wytovich
4. “Procrastination’s Joy” – Matt Moore


1. “I Had a Thought Today…” Harlan Ellison
2. “The Strange & Uncanny In DOCTOR WHO” – Paul F. Cockburn
3. “The Medium As the Mirror” – Lydia Peever*
4. “Twisting Our Values: Culture & the Medium That Shapes It” – KT Jayne*
* Articles 3 and 4 are a point-counterpoint special to this issue.

1. “Only God Forgives” – Jessica Dwyer
2. “Antiviral” – Adam Shaftoe
3. “Spider Baby” – William D. Carl

1. “Dark Roads: Selected Long Poems – 1971-2012” by Bruce Boston – Mary A. Turzillo
2. “The Last Revelation of Gla’aki” by Ramsey Campbell – Andrew J. Wilson
3. “Song of Kali” by Dan Simmons – Donald Jacob Uitvlugt

1. “Photo Captions” – Gary Braunbeck
2. “Another Friendly Day In the Antique Trade” – Adam-Troy Castro
3. “Shiva” – Cameron Suey
4. “Bait” – Michael Kelly
5. “The Hydra Wife” – Sandra Odell
6. “Another Pleasant Valley Sunday” – by Jessica McHugh
7. “Video Nasties” – Max Booth III

As well as comics by Kenneth W. Cain and Jon Towers!


Jamais Vu #1 is scheduled to be released January 14, 2014.

DARK BITS – Now Available in eBook, Paperback, and Hardback

Apokrupha’s Dark Bits anthology (edited by Jacob Haddon) is now available in eBook, paperback, and hardback. This is an anthology consisting of 52 (+1) horror flash fictions. It includes my story, “The Child, Smiling”, along with many other wonderful authors. Check out the Table of Contents below!


1. In Country – Robert Ford

2. The Delivery – Kevin David Anderson

3. Mowed – Jessica McHugh

4. Fatty – Mandy DeGeit

5. Listening – Jeff Heimbuch

6. Locking Up – William Whorton

7. The Miracle – Michael H. Antonio

8. Unconditional – Michele Mixell

9. Confusion in Southern Illinois – Wesley Southard

10. Autumn as Metaphor – G.N. Braun

11. The Long Haul – Mary Pletsch

12. Photograph (V) – Die Booth

13. Crab Feast – Cynthia Ray

14. The Old House – Angela Pritchett

15. Disturbance – Darryl Dawson

16. Seeds – Guy Anthony De Marco

17. You Have to Bleed a Little – Robin Devereaux-Nelson

18. Shroud – Bryce Hughes

19. To Kill a Ghost – Johannes Pinter

20. The Ones That Shine – James Roy Daley

21. Their Favourite Thing – Rebecca L. Brown

22. The Lying Dead – Sheri White

23. The Prescription – Matthew Wilson

24. Messages – David Greske

25. Still Life – Apple Ardent Scott

26. He Knew – William Gracey

27. The Child, Smiling – Max Booth III

28. Senseless – Edd Vick

29. The Scream – Mark C. Scioneaux

30. AM Radio – Chantel Delulio

31. Flesh and Blood- Jeremy C. Shipp

32. Don’t Blink – David Bernstein

33. Lost and Found – Sandy Shelonchik

34. The Treatment – Tracy L. Carbone

35. A Straightforward Proceedure – Tina Rath

36. The Third Prisoner – James S. Dorr

37. That’s Show Business – Bruce Boston

38. Lost – Richard Farren Barber

39. The Worst Sound – William Meikle

40. The Visit – Robert Smales

41. Up – Cameron Suey

42. Broken Eggs – Jamie Lackey

43. Little Lies are Better – Randolph Andrews

44. Visitors – Kenneth W. Cain

45. The Linguist – Kallirroe Agelopoulou

46. Promise Kept – Meriah L. Crawford

47. A Taste of Darkness – Chantal Noordeloos

48. Change – Keith Armstrong

49. New Start – Kathryn Ptacek

50. Kwick Stop Jesus – Dane Hatchell

51. The Door – Stephanie Jessop

52. Smokes – Carson Buckingham

  • +1 Just A Dream – Kevin Lucia


Dark Bits is a collection of 52+1 horror flash fiction stories.  Short, but not sweet, they move quick to grab you. Got a minute? Go ahead, try one.

Zombies Need Love, Too Is Now Available


In August 2011, I created a FaceBook group to discuss the possibilities of an anthology featuring “love among zombies” as the central theme to each story. The idea came to fruition after Jay Wilburn, someone I barely knew at the time (he is now one of my best friends in the writing industry–go figure), casually remarked that he was currently working on a zombie book that would cover some taboo areas. Obviously I accused him of writing about zombies shagging. I mean, what else could I say, right? This, of course, sparked much musing between a few of us (myself, Jay, Jennifer Word, Craig Garrett, and Axel Howerton), who began to seriously debate setting up such an anthology. Slowly we began to think of guidelines and invite friends to submit to this crazy, whackjob of a book. And what do you know? We actually got some really friggin’ good stories in.

This was in August 2011. A lot has happened since then. Zombies Need Love, Too has been in developmental hell of the worst sort. It has gone through four different cover artists. Four! There came a point when I thought I’d never find the right art. Then I came upon the absolutely wonderful April Guadiana, and she salvaged the project with her crazy drawings. Seriously. Look at this cover. It is the only art I could ever have imagined being appropriate for this nutty anthology of zombie love.


Makes you want to just whip your cash at me, doesn’t it? Of course it does! Whip away! Whip away!

Let’s be real here, though. This book exists not because of myself, but because of the extremely talented authors and artists who helped craft this thing together. I started this book a long time ago, when I was very new to the business and wasn’t exactly sure what the hell I was doing. You all took a chance with me, and I will forever appreciate this. I love you all. You fucking rock my stripey socks off. The lot of you.


oh dear lord help me…