Author Interview: Kelly Robson

It’s November 7th and that means it’s time for this month’s Author Interview! Every month I’ll be interviewing authors and creators about their newest works, their lives, and what influences them. This month’s interview is with Nebula Winner Kelly Robson.

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Kelly Robson. Photo Credit: Maxwell Ander

Hello Kelly! I’m very excited to have you here on the blog today! I like to start my interviews off with the ultimate softball question: tell us a little bit about yourself. What made you want to be a writer? What do you do when you’re not sitting at your keyboard?

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a little kid. Book have always been the most important thing in the world to me. But I caught the short SFF bug when I was sixteen and picked up my first issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine. Contemporary short SFF just blows my mind. It’s so powerful, so flexible.

I have a nine-to-five office job in downtown Toronto, which is only a fifteen minute walk from my apartment. I love not having a commute — it gives me time and energy for writing after work.

I discovered your writing through Tor.com late last year. It was ‘A Human Stain’ that drew me in. After I saw Sam Wolfe Connelly’s incredibly creepy art, I knew I had to read it. This story is a perfect example of how amazing speculative fiction can be. I think you must have performed some kind of gothic-magic to cram that much atmosphere and detail into 40 pages. Your story rightfully won the Nebula for Best Novelette. Can you give us some background on ‘A Human Stain’? What was it like to win that award?

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Isn’t that cover art amazing? I love it so much. Ellen Datlow edited “A Human Stain,” and she put me through FIVE rewrites. One of the great things about horror stories is the sensory detail — it’s not horror if you can’t feel it! The story wouldn’t have won the Nebula if Ellen hadn’t pushed me to perfect it, and at the end, neither she nor I could really tell if the story worked or not. So winning the award was a complete surprise. I really expected not to win, and my co-finalists are all people I know and like so I was rooting for them. Then at the ceremony, I was busy live-tweeting the results on my phone, and was poised to take a photo of the winner when my name was called. I sat with my mouth open for a full ten seconds before moving.

Your book ‘Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach’ landed on shelves in March of this year. Though I haven’t got a chance to read it yet (it’s in my teetering TBR pile) it looks like you’ve created a very unique world. How did you go about writing this book and managing all the demands that world-building requires?

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I go about world-building in an organic way, by reading a lot of interesting non-fiction and then synthesizing the best bits. I don’t really take notes, I just try to get an understanding of how the world works. So my Earth of 2267 is based on a lot of information from David Graeber’s terrific economics book Debt: The First 5000 Years combined with my own understanding of the professional services world to create a unique economic system. I really believe economics is the physics of world-building. Once you understand that piece, everything else falls into place.

A lot of young writers I talk to get discouraged with the grind (sending stories out on submission, etc.) and the constant struggle that is the publishing world. Do you have any advice for any writers looking to get published?

I tell new writers that the writers who make it are the ones who don’t quit, so to make it, you have to find the survival strategy that works for you. That’s going to be different for everyone. Maybe that means doing what I did: write a lot but not submit stories until I knew my stories were good enough to sell to the bigger SFFH markets. Other people find a way to enjoy the submission grind. Others go to a lot of workshops, and get tons of feedback on their drafts. So just do what’s right for you and don’t quit. If you never quit, you never fail.

What’s next for you? Any new books or stories on the horizon?

Right now, I’m working on a sequel to ‘Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach’. And I’m discovering that second books are really difficult.

Let’s talk about books for a moment. What’s in your To Be Read pile right now? Any books you’re looking forward to in the future?

I’m reading an arc of Caitlin Starling’s The Luminous Dead, which is an SF Horror and it’s simply terrific. It’ll be out next year. I’m reading a lot of horror right now. And I’m desperately looking forward to Annalee Newitz’s next novel, which I think should be out next year, too!

Last question: You’re stranded on a desert island with one historical figure from any point in history. Who’s it going to be?

Such a hard question! I think it would have to be Oscar Wilde, because I’d really like to collaborate with him on a decadent, epic space opera.

Monthly Review (October 2018)

Happy Halloween! In a few hours, kids will be descending onto the streets for candy. They’re be dressed as ghosts and ghouls of every shape and size (as well as the odd Fortnite character for some reason). The dead autumn leaves will scrap across the sidewalks and the Jack-O-Lanterns will be glowing brighter in the expanding dusk.

This month was positively packed for me. Several deadlines for stories, lots of movies to watch, and, in my spare time, some books and video games. It was wild! It was October.

Let’s start with the important stuff.

As I’m sure some of you have noticed, I’ve delayed the release of HUNTER. It was set to be released on the 23rd of October. I decided to hold it close to my chest for a couple weeks more. It won’t be out in time for Halloween (obviously), but it will still make good reading in November.

Next order of business in this October council is of course story submissions:

Story Submissions:

Submissions: 4

Stories Still Out in the Wild: 2

Acceptances: 1

Rejections: 1

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Acceptance! Hurrah! This one is a story I’ve been shopping around for years. It’s a strange little beast, and I think it is as unique as any snowflake. Like usual, I can’t share to many details on the acceptance, just know I’m excited and you should be too. This will put me at 20 published stories! I’ve been publishing for five years, and I’m happy with that average. Hopefully the new stories still out will be as successful.

What Else Have I Been Doing?

An interview with author Orrin Grey!

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Orrin Grey is one of my top ten favorite authors, and his newest collection (Guignol and Other Sardonic Tales) came out earlier this month. I interviewed him in a special October edition of my monthly Author Interviews! Next month’s interview will be with Nebula Winner Kelly Robson!

My story ‘The Mouth That Opens’ will be featured in Sanitarium Magazine!

I mentioned an acceptance in August’s Monthly Review and here it is in all it’s glory! It was supposed to be released this month, but it may come in the next week or so. It will be in the first issue of the recently revamped Sanitarium Magazine (both digital and physical). This is my first time being published in a magazine, which has always been a hard market to crack. It can be VERY competitive, and I’m extremely happy to add this new publication to my shelf! Once this guy is officially out, I’m going to push it out to some ‘Best Horror of the Year’ anthologies. I think it has the power to hang with the big boys.

Some articles! And a free story!

The Noble Horror Film Festival (2018)

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Twitter challenge turned fun article topic. In this one I break down what my dream all night October film festival would look like. (Spoiler alert: John Carpenter’s Halloween is totally on here).

Tim Burton Spook Music: An Ode to Destiny 2’s Halloween Event

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Playing horror centric video games is one of my favorite October activities. This year I change things up and play something a little more spooky fun than run-and-hide scary. Destiny 2 is a great game that has a lot of problems. But their Halloween event is very good.

Free story! Halloween Freaks.

”The houses on Packard Street no longer celebrate Halloween.”

Free story! I wanted to write something short to conjure up those spooky Halloween night feelings. I had a lot of fun with it, and I hope you enjoy it.

Tomorrow begins our push into November. Keep tuning in and I’ll keep doing my best to bring the horror and the fun. Eat some candy everybody. Enjoy your favorite movies. Halloween is almost over.

Halloween Freaks – A Halloween Short Story

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Halloween Freaks

A Halloween Short Story

The houses on Packard Street no longer celebrate Halloween. When the 31st of October rolls around, we engage our deadbolts and close our blinds. The porch lights remain dark and we wait for the Halloween Freaks to arrive.

They first came the year after Jenny passed on. Jenny loved Halloween more than any other holiday. In the 53 years we’d been married, it was this autumn night that she looked forward to the most. She loved to see the kids in their costumes, their eyes bright. She’d welcome them with handfuls of candy, grinning in the way that made her so beautiful. I never cared much for the whole thing. I keep a smile and went along with it though. I would have followed Jenny to hell and back.

That Halloween that they arrived, I poured myself a drink and sat at my window. The street was teeming with excited children and parents doing their best to keep them near. I figured I could watch the festivities and think back on Halloweens past. Looking back, I wish I hadn’t done that. I could have flown to another place, spending the holiday on a beach somewhere. Then I maybe could have stayed there. Let the house rot. There is nothing left for me there anyway.

The kids couldn’t see them. Neither could their parents. But my neighbors could. I could. There is something about the people that live on Packard that makes us cursed. We see them on our porches. We see them in our gardens. Lurking near windows, poised just out of sight…

How would I describe them? Long. Withered. Skulls that glowed, amorphous eyes tethered wetly in cavernous sockets. They don’t have feet. Just legs that dangle and sway as they float above the ground. They don’t speak. They don’t call out to us. They float and they shine and they only come along when the sun sets on Halloween night.

When I saw them for that first time, I thought it was some kind of complex costume. I remember leaning forward, nearly pressing my brow to the blinds to get a better look. That’s when I saw them open their glowing lips and letting that foul orange light out that I realized exactly what I was seeing. Some kind of supernatural event, creatures birthed from some kind of darkness. The creatures’ heads twists and that light spin over everything, giving the shadows unholy life.

Someone called the police after. They came, lights flashing. I watched Mrs. Myers talking to them, her eyes bulging and her face flushed with fears. The officers left, shaking their heads. Of course they wouldn’t believe. Why would they?

No one talked about them after. We went about our lives. Pretended that we didn’t see what I called the Halloween Freaks. But I think that everyone dreaded the return of autumn.

They came again that next year. I drank nearly an entire bottle of whiskey as I waited. That year they floated from one end of the street to the other. There was less kids that Halloween. Even though no one else could see the Freaks, I think they could feel them. Perhaps it was the pull of their unholy light. I know I felt it. The nightmares I had that night were dark and foul. Jenny was in them all, her lips glowing. And, when she opened her mouth, the world twisted and squirmed, colors running together like blood down a shower drain.

Why do they come? What do they want? Are they spirits, tethered to this earth? Demons escaped from the deepest bowls of hell? I don’t know. I’m not sure if anyone does. They float from one end of the street to the other, lingering to gaze into windows, their inner light shining over everything.

The children have stopped coming. The street is nothing but dead leaves now. I’m 80 years old. I started coughing earlier this year, and bits of blood have started to appear on my handkerchief when the fits get particularly bad. It’s Halloween Day, about an hour before dark. They’ll be coming any minute now.

When they do, I’ll be waiting. I’ll put on my coat, pick up my cane, and I’ll walk right down my warped front porch stairs. I intend to greet these Freaks, perhaps touch their withered flesh.

Maybe they have some secrets to share. Anything is possible. After all, it is Halloween.

 

Happy Halloween! I hope it’s suitably spooky.

– Logan Noble

Tim Burton Spook Music: An Ode to Destiny 2’s Halloween Event

I have a soft spot for a good horror video game. Earlier this year, I jump-scared my way through Resident Evil 7. I played and was subsequently terrified of both Outlast games. Even games like Dead Space (a perfect blend of atmosphere and tense combat) and Bioshock (my favorite game of all time, don’t @ me) are perfect replays once September ends. This year, I intended to play through Bioshock again, which has served as my October tradition for quite some time.

But this year was different. I was swarmed with great games! Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey had my attention for awhile. Red Dead Redemption 2 is literally two days away. Those, coupled with the fact that I’m working a book AND trying to absorb all other kinds of spooky media, my old favorites didn’t have time to sneak in. All seemed to be lost…

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Then I heard about Destiny 2’s Halloween event. It’s called Festival of Souls, and it’s everything I could want from a game. My love/hate relationship with Destiny 2 is particularly strong. I love the game’s world and over-all flavor. The shooting feels good, and the music is some of the best music in gaming (once again, don’t @ me). But the game is also obtuse and disrespectful to your time in ways that few other games are. It’s community can be toxic and elitist in the worst possible way. While playing through a Raid earlier this year, I met some of the worst people I’ve ever had the displeasure of gaming with. It soured my experience with this beautiful mess of a game. I deleted it off my PS4 and moved on to other games, with no intention of playing D2 again.

And yet, here I am.

I couldn’t help but see details about the event on social media. A month long event where you don masks of famous Destiny NPCs and dive into a creepy simulation called The Haunted Forest. The rewards range from the interesting to the irresistibly spooky. As you battle randomized enemies, you’re hunted by Destiny 2’s version of a slasher villain. This axe wielding creature lurks in the darkness of the level (you can only see via your Ghost’s light) and can one-shot you with ease once he spots you. It’s Halloween done Destiny style, complete with unique Tim Burton spook music in the Tower and a seemingly endless grind for stylized loot.

From Bungie/Activison

Delving into this level with two other random players and battling the darkness together is totally wonderful. It doesn’t have the frustrations or challenge of something like a Raid. But in this busy and spooky month, I’m okay with that. I just want to don a mask and shoot some aliens. I hope Bungie makes the Festival of Souls an annual event.

I’ll be there next year for sure, my Horror Story Auto Rifle in hand.

The Noble Horror Film Festival (2018)

A new Twitter challenge cropped up recently. Even though these are dime a dozen (favorite horror novels! Favorite horror movies! Video games! Music!) one popped out that I’ve never seen before! Here’s a link to the offending Tweet here.

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It’s a unique challenge: If you could craft an all-night horror film festival, what would it look like? It got me thinking. I recently saw John Carpenter’s ‘Halloween’ on the big screen for the first time, and was so happy I could barely stand it. Seeing a classic that like on the screen not only reinforced the power of a classic like this, it always made me want to see more of my favorites up on the cinema screen. You’ve got your soda and the candy you snuck in is snug in your pocket. The lights dim. The first movie is starting…

7 P.M: The Nun (2018)

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“Why are we starting with ‘The Nun’!?”, you shout at the screen in rage. Why would Logan do this to us!? Okay. I want to kick off with something new, and something fun, and most importantly, something really stupid. Listen. ‘The Nun’ is not a great movie. But it had some big scares in it and I love the creepy-monastery-in-Romania vibe. It’s the perfect movie to kick off this festival with.

9 P.M: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

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One movie down. You’re still primed. It’s almost Halloween everybody! And what better way to celebrate than with a little bit of Freddy in your life. ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors’ is as good as Freddy ever got. Sure, I love the original maybe more, but this is a long night of spooky movies. Let’s keep the energy high. That’s why this one gets a prime time slot.

11 P.M: Scream (1996)

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A real and true crowd-pleaser to take us through the Witching Hour. ‘Scream’ is a favorite of mine for many reasons. It still feels fresh, the kills still feel brutal, and the script positively screams. ‘Scream’ is a classic through and through.

1 A.M: Ghostbusters (1984)

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Cats and dogs, living together… You know the rest. This is your wake up movie! Let Ray Parker Jr. fill you with wonderful Halloween energy. Slimer. Stay-Puff! ‘Ghostbusters’ is a stinkin’ classic man.

3 A.M: The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

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Drew Godard and Joss Whedon do an old cliché so much good. ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ is fun and meta. It’s a horror movie made for horror fans. From bargain bin versions of our favorite monsters (and one or two surprises) this one is a breath of fresh slasher air. We’re in the home stretch. Two to go. And they are some of the biggest of the night…

5 A.M: Suspiria (1977)

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A stone cold weird classic. Giallo can be powerful, and this witchy, Alice in Wonderful marvel is everything you could want for a long October night. ‘Suspiria’ would look absolutely break-taking on the big screen.

7 A.M: Halloween (1978)

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THE October movie. As vital to the season as apple cider and pumpkins. It’s the perfect ending to a night of new and old horror classics. You can see influences from this movie in every single one on this list (save for ‘Suspiria’). Let Carpenter’s perfect score end this night of frights.

The film festival is over. Stumble out to your car in the new daylight, tired but smiling. You’ve won. And now for the sequel…

Maybe next year?

HUNTER is now up on Goodreads!

Happy Monday everybody! We are about 8 days from release for my short book HUNTER. Pre-orders will be up soon, but for now I’ve added it to Goodreads for those of you awesome enough to use it. Here’s the link if you want to add this to your ‘To-Read’ Pile.

Here it is in all it’s neon-slasher glory. 

The Hunter Cover
HUNTER, available on Amazon Kindle on October 23rd! The best 80’s style Slasher Screenplay ever!

And how about a plot summary!

SCREAM if you are able

It’s three days until Halloween in the sleepy town of Bellamy Lake, Michigan.

For Jennifer and her friends, the old campground on the edge of the woods is the perfect place to let off some steam. They’ve got their beer. They’ve got their weed. They’ve got a long weekend to spend at the cabin, away from the stressors of their college classes…

RUN if you can

But these woods hold a terrible secret. An EVIL older than the land itself. And this EVIL has a face. And a knife. And a bow. Jennifer and her friends are not prepared for wait waits them in these woods.

You are the PREY

HUNTER, a Slasher Screenplay, is a story from a different time. Come for the gore. Come for the horror beyond your understanding. Read the script and watch these teenagers try to survive. Because…

The HUNTER has arrived.

And while I have you here… If you like Goodreads, I have a little bit of an author page on there. I update it frequently with what books I’m currently reading, and it’s the perfect place to chat with me about whatever horror awesomeness you’re currently reading. Reading is fun, dudes!

 

 

Author Interview: Orrin Grey

It’s finally October and that means it’s time for this month’s Author Interview! Every month I’ll be interviewing authors and creators about their newest works, their lives, and what influences them. This month I’ll be talking to horror fiction’s favorite skeleton Orrin Grey.

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Hello Orrin and happy (28 days from now) Halloween! I want to thank you for taking time out of your busy autumnal schedule to have a quick chat with me. I’d like to start with an easy question: What made you want to be a writer? What turned you into the skeleton you are today?

I’ll be completely honest and say that I don’t know what originally made me want to be a writer. For as long as I can remember, it’s all I ever wanted to do. My mom had this book where she kept my report cards and class photos and stuff from all my years of elementary school, and for every grade it had a space where I could write what I wanted to be when I grew up. From about third grade on all it ever said was, “writer.”

That said, a lot of different things formed the specific writer that I am now. I went through various phases when I was younger, writing fanfic, trying (and failing) to write big epic fantasy sagas, all that jazz. I know that reading Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber was a turning point for me, in part because it was a very different kind of writing than I had read before then, and the zest with which he mixed and matched genre tropes was thrilling to me at the time.

Of course, I’m known by now for writing about and around film quite a bit. I’ve always loved movies, but I didn’t get into the older horror films that have become some of my chief influences until after I had graduated from college. When I was a kid, though, I used to have these Crestwood House Monster Books, which some readers may remember. They were little board books that I would check out from my school library, filled with black-and-white stills from old monster movies of the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s. I used to pore over those things obsessively, mentally conjuring the movies that I imagined went with those images.

Probably the biggest turning point for me was getting into Mike Mignola’s Hellboy comics. Here was someone who was doing so much of the stuff I wanted to be doing, who was bending and blending genres, telling numinous supernatural stories built around chewy pulp centers (and vice versa), but perhaps more importantly, who was wearing all of his influences on his sleeve, so that reading his stuff became a gateway to countless other writers, artists, movies, and more that have since become huge influences on my work. Mike Mignola tells a story in interviews about how reading Dracula made him realize that all he wanted to do was draw monsters. Reading his work did something similar for me, but I can’t draw, so here I am.

I love your work. Your stories find the perfect balance of cosmic horror and creepy beasties. ‘Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts’ should be made mandatory reading for all young ghouls and ghosts. I’ve heard tell that you have a new collection getting ready to come out. What can you tell me about it?

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Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales should actually be out by the time this sees print! It’s being released by Word Horde, the same publisher who put out Painted Monsters, and I’m extremely lucky to be working with Ross Lockhart again. He was an early booster of my stuff, and I owe a lot to his faith in me and my weird stories.

Guignol collects fourteen of my spooky tales, four of which have never seen print before. Of the ones that have, several are hard-to-find, out-of-print, or seldom seen, so I think it’ll be a treat Orrin Greyfor fans of my work. There are two novelettes in the book, “The Cult of Headless Men” and “The Lesser Keys” and I’m really excited for people to check it out. Like Painted Monsters, it draws a lot of influence from movies and the theater, and its title, in fact, comes from the one-two punch of the Theatre du Grand Guignol, an early French horror theatre known for its bloody and lurid plays, and “Contes Cruel,” both a subtype of horror story and the title of a couple of early collections of same.

Guignol is filled with more of the kind of stuff that readers have come to expect from me, but this is also possibly my grimmest collection to date. While I hesitate to call the stories in it cruel, they certainly aren’t kind. Painted Monsters had a sort of unintended thematic underpinning of death and what comes after, while Guignol is more about dealing with trauma, and how the past, especially the painful past, never entirely leaves us alone.

It also probably has more monsters per page than anything else I’ve ever written, so there’s always that.

You, like so many other awesome folk, love horror cinema. I’m sure you have all kinds of movies ready to go throughout this entire blessed month. As a fan of the genre, what are some of the movies you’ll be watching leading up to All Hallows’ Eve?

I live in the suburbs of Kansas City, and we’re lucky enough here to have a really passionate and active horror film community. We also have a great local theatre, in the form of the Screenland Armour, which does Halloween programming all month long in October, so I’m hoping to catch a lot of that. As part of the launch festivities for Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales, I’ll be presenting a free screening of Mario Bava’s Black Sunday on October 14, and every year the Nerds of Nostalgia podcast hosts a horror triple feature sometime around Halloween, which has become my annual birthday tradition.

Beyond that, I watch a lot more horror cinema than anything else all year long, but as the Halloween season rolls around I tend to gravitate even more toward the old classics. There’s a new Blu-ray release of some William Castle titles on its way that I’m really excited about. Like every other horror fan on the planet, I’ll be watching the new Halloween when it hits theatres, even if I am less sanguine about it than many of my peers. And I am really looking forward to Apostle, the new folk horror flick from Gareth Evans and Dan Stevens that’s coming to Netflix this month.

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A lot of young writers I talk to get discouraged with the grind (sending stories out on submission, etc.) and the constant struggle that is the publishing world. Do you have any advice for any writers looking to get published?

Maybe the best piece of advice I ever got in this business was, “Know your victory conditions.” Know what success looks like to you. It’s easy to lose focus when you’re in the proverbial mines, but if you can remember what it is you’re trying to accomplish, you can work towards it. For some people that means critical acknowledgement or winning awards, for some people that means getting a lot of fans or readers, for some people that means making a living at writing. For some it means something else completely. Those things aren’t mutually exclusive, you may get all of them, but if you know what’s important to you, it’ll help you make the hard decisions when they come, and keep you from getting turned around in the dark.

Also, don’t be in a hurry. It’s better to sell a few stories to good markets than a lot of stories to markets that no one will ever see. It’s better to wait a few years until you have a collection that’s really strong than to break out with a first collection too early.

Let’s talk about books for a minute. What’s in your TBR pile currently? Are there any stories/novels you like to read to get into the October spirit?

My TBR pile is so careeningly, terrifyingly cyclopean that it beggars belief, let alone description. I am so far behind on my reading that I barely know where to begin. That said, I recently finished Matthew M. Bartlett’s first collection (I had already read his later ones, but had missed the first) and, like all of his other work, it blew my mind. He is, for my money, one of the best authors working today, and I am always wowed by his stuff. I’ve got a gobsmackingly long list of stuff in my queue, but right now I’m trying to make my way through William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land, which, as I had been warned countless times, is a slog.

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Last  question: Where can people find your works?

Probably the best place is in one of my collections, which I will have three of by the time this sees print. Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings, my first collection, is now available in a deluxe hardcover from Strix Publishing, while Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts and Guignol& Other Sardonic Tales are both available from Word Horde or wherever better books are sold. You can keep up with me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and you can always find out the latest stuff I’m doing on my website. I have a few stories available online, as well, including a recent one at The Dark and several on PseudoPod.