The Glowing Dark

It’s Halloween Week! I’ve written a story to celebrate this glorious holiday, and I wanted to share it with you great people!

This story fulfills two of my writing goals for 2019: put up a free story for Halloween and write a story featuring a certain kind of beastie… I’d like you to meet the Harwood Twins and witness their cold quest. I hope you enjoy this story. I know I enjoyed writing it.

The Glowing Dark

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The Harwood twins chartered a ship from the village. It had taken a considerable effort and a lot of money, but they’d made it happen. The only person willing to take them to the north shore of Ballaghbrack Island was a drunk captain that piloted a rusted lobster boat.

Cassandra leaned on the rusted railing of the boat and fished out a cigarette. The ocean churned and thrashed before her, the overcast sky turning the sea dark. The ship moved with it, dipping low and heaving with every crashing wave. The rumble of thunder could be heard in the distance, but rain only threatened. The remnants of the day’s sunshine were being smothered by the storm.

Cassandra snapped her fingers at the end of her cigarette and a green spark appeared. She lit it and then shook her hand to extinguish the tiny flame. Her brother Cash, seated on a derelict bench behind her, was looking over their supplies one last time.

The brother and sister team did not travel light. It was a reality of their profession. They were monster hunters, called upon to dispatch any denizens of the night that over-stepped the natural order. Cassandra and Cash both carried a set of pistols on every job. While bullets were useless against some creatures of the night, they worked beautifully for others. They also carried a myriad of other weaponry, each customized to deal with different situations. Shrapnel bombs filled with broken cross wood. Knives and stakes. Some modified heavy artillery (always Cash’s favorite). Their father, Lord Harwood, had taught them that the right weapons could always save the day. And in the five years that they’d been hunting together, that knowledge had served them well.

Cassandra puffed on her cigarette and looked back out toward the ocean. The island would be making its appearance soon enough. Like most of the islands on this part of the Irish coast, Ballaghbrack Island was just a rocky slab, devoid of vegetation and inhabitants. Though it was unattractive, fishermen did find reasons to visit its shores. But then fishermen started going missing. One such fisherman ran into the village screaming about ‘swollen monsters’. That lead to the village elder looking for help. That’s how he found the Harwood family.

Because the fisherman’s description had been vague, Cassandra made Cash bring all of his deadly toys. Cash handled the weaponry and loved doing it. Cassandra had her own methods of destruction. She—like many of the people in their family—had special abilities. Cassandra could conjure flames from her hands. While prolonged use of her ability was dangerous to her health, it gave her an edge in certain kinds of encounters. Cash had no such ability, but he was as well-trained as Cassandra in all manners of combat. They’d been raised to be true warriors.

The rain came. The wind whipped it hard enough to sting. Cash cursed and closed their bags, his eyes squinted to protect them from the deluge. Cassandra grunted and tossed her cigarette over the side. Through the wall of rain before them, she could just make out the hard shore of Ballaghbrack Island.

Cash joined his sister at the railing, holding out her bag. Cassandra took it and slung it over her shoulder.

“What do you think we’ll find here? What kind of creatures are we up against?”

“I’m not sure, Cash,” Cassandra said, shrugging.

“The elder said the island was once used for worship. He said we should head to the altar on the southern side.”

At the word ‘altar’, Cassandra looked at her brother. “Maybe it’s some kind of evil deity? Something we need to put down?”

Cash grinned. “We’ll find out soon enough, sister.”

The island came closer, and before too long they were right on top of the beach. The captain blew the ship’s horn and the siblings readied to disembark.

“It appears that the Captain has no wish to speak to us again before we head off to face the monsters of Ballaghbrack Island.” Cash said, hazarding a look back toward the ship’s cabin.

Cassandra scoffed. “He’s probably hoping we don’t come back.”

The boat bumped into the shore and the siblings hopped overboard. Their boots crunched rock. Cash gave the boat a shove and it went back out into the choppy water. Cassandra waited, her eyes on the darkening sky. The arrangement was that the captain was to set up anchor and wait for the siblings to complete their hunt. Neither twin had much faith in this captain.

The two of them set off across the island. The soil was hard, and what little grass persisted was brittle and long dead. Weak looking trees had somehow clawed their way through the harsh ground. Because they were both fit and accustomed to long walks, the two of them made good time.

After a while, the rain tapered down into a thick mist. As the two siblings walked, they kept their eyes peeled. The further inland they went, they began to notice more vegetation was finding its way through the stones. As they reached a particularly steep hill, Cash paused and knelt down. The ground was overgrown with patches of spongy growth.

“These rocks are covered in mold.”

“And?” Cassandra grunted.

“It’s late autumn in Ireland. There’s no humidity. Just rain and cold. Mold shouldn’t be growing here on the rocks.”

Cassandra looked to the slope. The mold patches grew more frequent as they went up, each thicker than the last. “That seems odd. But we’re hardly fungi experts. Maybe some kind of local strain?”

Cash stood up. “I suppose so. Let’s keep moving before the rain comes back,” He motioned toward the hill, “I feel like we’re close.”

The siblings crested the hill together, rocks tumbling away as their boots found purchase. At the top, they both stopped.

Cash chuckled. “I hate it when I’m right.”

The hill sloped down dramatically on the other side, leading straight into what they had come for. A circle of stone monoliths, each standing over ten feet tall. In the very center of the stones appeared to be a crude altar. All around it, on nearly every surface, was the same mold that the siblings had found before. It grew thick and violent, with troops of misshapen mushrooms popping up intermittently.

Cash squinted. “How is this possible? It’s everywhere!”

Cassandra drew one of her pistols. “It must be the monoliths. Something is exerting an influence here. And my guess is the influence will do anything to protect itself.”

“As much as I would like to avoid it, I think we should continue down to the altar.” Cash said, eyeing the ground. Even though they were both protected from disease by magical wards, the idea of taking the chance didn’t appeal. Cassandra nodded and began to walk down.

As the siblings neared the first monolith, they looked up at it. Though covered in mold, they could both make out some features. A beak-like countenance. Grand wings. Huddled figures, arms raised in veneration.

As they stepped into the stone circle, the ground trembled beneath their feet. Then, the mold began to glow green. It started light, and then grew glaring.

All around them, the ground began to break. As the rotten ground peeled up, figures pulled themselves from the dirt. They were vaguely humanoid, but all humanlike features had been consumed by the mold. Layers of heavy mushroom growth hung from their bodies, weighing them down. Their arms were swollen mounds of glowing green flesh, flowered and horrible. The Fungi Monsters numbered in the dozens. And they were advancing.

Cash drew both of his pistols. He spun and opened fire, the gunshots echoing out. Cassandra dodged a clumsy grab from the nearest monster and emptied her guns into it. The bullets tore into the meaty fungus, throwing chunks to the radiant ground. But the bullets did nothing to slow them down. All the while, more monsters were being born from the moldy ground, dragging their enormous bodies toward the siblings as they fought.

Both of Cash’s guns clicked empty and he threw them aside. “Forget about guns, Cassandra! They’re useless!”

Cassandra threw her own guns back into her holsters. “Use the incendiary bombs! Let’s see how these things like fire!”

Cassandra held out her hands. Emerald sparks flew from her fingertips and two balls of flame came to riotous life. With a growl, Cassandra thrust her arms forward. The twin fireballs struck the nearest Fungi Monster with a ripe whoosh. The creature let out an unearthly howl, its flesh sloughing off in burning chunks.

Cash cheered and lit a bomb. He spun and rolled one under the feet of the nearest monstrosity. Boom. The fungi creature was thrown into the air, blown nearly in half. The twins continued to fight. Cassandra threw fire. Cash threw bombs. Fire roared and devoured. The mold on the ground caught fire and spread, racing outward. The air stank of burning mold and flesh.

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The fungal army was beginning to slow. Cassandra and Cash stepped closer to each other, their faces drenched in sweat. They’d found a bare patch of ground, free from mold and from flame.

“What’s the end game here, Cassandra? Burn the whole island down!?”

“These creatures are born of the mold! We burn the mold, no more problem!”

Lightning split the sky and a great grinding noise broke through the air. Cassandra and Cash spun, their faces alight from the flames around them.

The altar had broken in half, leaving a jagged whole in the center. Steam rolled from the shattered stone, glowing and billowing into the night mist. An enormous arm shot out of the fissure, a massive claw at the end of a long, ebony arm. The claw stabbed into the ground before the altar and began to pull.

The creature that emerged bore a resemblance to the visage on the monoliths. It was thin and bent, as large as an elephant. Its beak-like face opened and closed, revealing gnarled teeth and a glowing gullet. A set of crusty wings attempted to unfurl, but were impeded by the growth that had overtaken its ebony body. Monstrous clusters of fungal growth had encased its limbs and torso, grey and mottled with age. Two green eyes blinked and spin, its focus set on the siblings.

“I think we found the source of the mold.” Cash said.

“We need firepower. All of the firepower.” Cassandra whispered.

“Coming right up!”

As Cash turned away, the Fungal Bird suddenly raced forward. It opened its jagged beak and let out a fearsome screech.

Cassandra let out a scream of her own and threw up her arms. She let loose two streams of bright green fire, both of which struck the Fungal Bird square in its chest. The force of it staggered the beast for a moment. The flame glanced off its foul skin and ignited the masses of scattered fungi that hung from its body. But it wasn’t enough. The Fungal Bird’s head turned. It took one shaky step forward. Then another. Cassandra’s arms shook and her flame stream faltered. Soon, it would be upon them.

“I’ve been looking forward to using this.”

Cash stepped up and shouldered a grenade launcher.

“Bye bye birdie.” Cash said, grinning. He pulled the trigger.

The grenade launcher kicked up and the grenade struck the Fungal Bird in its wide chest. Cassandra dropped her arms, her power spent. For an agonizing moment, the fired grenade spun on the ground beneath the massive creature. The twins hit the dirt.

The grenade exploded.

The shrapnel tore up and through the Fungal Bird’s torso and legs. The creature screamed and pitched over, its broken body slamming into the smoldering ground. The Fungal Bird screeched weakly, blood running from its obliterated body. As the siblings watched, the creature slowly died.

Cash, grinning like a fool, looked around. What Fungal Monsters they hadn’t destroyed had crumbled into piles of flowered flesh. The battle was done.

Cassandra collapsed, her eyes fluttering.

Cash knelt beside her. “We’ve done it! I certainly wasn’t expecting a bird demon to come out of the altar, but I guess these kind of things happen.”

“I’m glad you brought that gun,” Cassandra said weakly, “I thought we were dead. Heavens. I’ve never thrown that much fire before. Ever.”

Cash considered that. “Father would be proud. He always knew you had potential.” Cash looked at all the smoldering corpses around them. “Let’s get out of here.”

Cassandra nodded. “Help me up.”

Together, Cassandra and Cash began the long walk back the way they had come. As the last of the Ballaghbrack Island fungi burned, the storm clouds broke. The moon shined through, bathing the island in natural light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best Books For Halloween

I read horror fiction all year round. I love the genre, and it’s so deep and diverse that it’s hard not to. But October is special. I want to find the stories that put me in that autumnal mood. I want to read about pumpkins on porches and a bitter chill in the air. I want to read about dead leaves and the darkness at the edges of the world.

So where do I turn? What books call out to me? All of these books (while not always tied to Halloween directly) are exactly the kind of things I look for. If you’re on the hunt for something to read in October, I hope this list helps. Let’s get started…

Dark Harvest

 

Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge

Ask any horror fan that’s worth their salt about Halloween reads, and Dark Harvest will be brought up. If you want a pure shot of All-Hallows-Eve terror, this book is where it’s at. It won the Bram Stoker Award, and it deserves it. Norman Partridge has conjured a Bradburyesque tale for the ages.

Poor October Boy… This poor town… You’ll recognize it. After all, you’ve been here before…


 

Robert AickmanDark Entries by Robert Aickman

This was almost a Robert Aickman appreciation post. He may be one of the most underrated authors in our genre. His stories are played so straight, so sterile. But in that formal quiet, horror resides. Aickman referred to his works as ‘strange stories’. It’s unbelievably apt. While his stories sometimes features common tropes (ghosts, haunted houses, evil towns) they are done with Aickman’s own unique style.

I selected Dark Entries because it’s my current favorite Aickman collection. While not Halloween focused per se, this is exactly the kind of unnerving short stories I crave. If you want something a little different, read Robert Aickman.


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Deadfall Hotel by Steve Rasnic Tem

I’ve spilled a lot of ink talking about Deadfall Hotel. There’s a reason for that. Not only is it one of my all time favorites, I think it’s a novel that deserves 1000% more attention. Told over a series of vignettes inside the very strange Deadfall Hotel, the novel focuses on a single father and his intelligent young daughter.

Deadfall Hotel is cold and weird, but it’s also warm and beautiful. Every chapter is a surprise. Every detail is a mystical wonder. It tackles complicated themes such as grief and fear, love and regret. While the book unfolds over many seasons, it just feels right for this time of year.


Dead LeavesDead Leaves: 9 Tales From the Witching Season by Kealan Patrick Burke

I wanted to include at least one more single author collection. I decided this one was perfect for multiple reasons: it’s short. It’s got variety. And it’s all about Halloween! A collection like this one is the perfect way to kickstart the season. While Dead Harvest feels classical, Dead Leaves is contemporary and grand, but somehow coming in under a hundred pages.

Kealan also includes a list of recommendations for the genre, books that he’s found are perfect for Halloween reading. It’s a good list, and it’s made my TBR just a little longer.


Haunted NightsHaunted Nights edited by Lisa Morton & Ellen Datlow

Let’s dig into some horror anthologies. There is an endless wealth of Halloween anthologies in the world, many of which have been haunting me from my TBR pile and may still be on there (looks over my shoulder nervously).

But not many people love Halloween more than Lisa Morton, and Haunted Nights is a tribute to the holiday. It’s co-edited by Ellen Datlow and filled with a list of horror fiction greats. It’s worth your time, and certainly worth the price of admission.


514VESaovlL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgAutumn Cthulhu edited by Mike Davis

 I like it when my collections come with a whole heaping serving of Lovecraftian horror. Thankfully, Mike Davis put out Autumn Cthulhu back in 2016. If you enjoy your Lovecraftian horror a little quieter, this is the perfect collection for you. Over the course of 19 stories, the authors explore the cosmic side of autumn, and all the horrors hiding behind the colored leaves.

I just hope we get an Autumn Cthulhu 2 soon. I need more of that autumn chill in my life.


81zqDem9OvL.jpgSalem’s Lot by Stephen King

I wanted to include at least one Stephen King book on this list. After all, it is a list of horror books. So the question became: which book? Night Shift may be his best short story collection. It may just be my favorite novel ever. But they don’t quite belong on this list. No, I think the honor belongs to Salem’s Lot.

It’s a frightening vision of a regular town that has a truly rotten core. It’s eventual and gradual takeover by vampires is terrifying and ultimately tragic. It’s cold and it feels like it belongs on this list. And a good chunk of the book takes places over the autumn months. King has been good for a long time, and Salem’s Lot proves it.


That does it for some Best Books For Halloween. Have you read all of these already? What are some of your Halloween favorites?

 

The Noble Horror Film Festival (2019)

Welcome to the 2nd annual Noble Horror Film Festival! If you have no idea what I’m talking about, here is the post from last year.

But this essentially boils down to putting together the perfect 12 hour horror film festival. From 7 P.M. to 9 A.M. the next morning… Last year I packed it with my favorites, so 2019 is going to get a bit more esoteric…

The lights are dimming. The crowd’s murmurs are dying down… The Noble Horror Film Festival is starting…

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7 P.M: Annabelle Comes Home (2019)

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Last year we started with The Conjuring-Verse entry The Nun. This year I decided to give the spot to the newest film in the massive franchise. I just recently saw this and had a ton of fun. It’s exactly the kind of contemporary horror movie we need in this time slot.

9 P.M: Poltergeist (1982)

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Poltergeist is a stone-cold classic. I don’t care who directed it, I just know that it’s amazing. It’s high energy, it’s beautiful, and it’s thoroughly haunting. It’s one of those horror films that stays quotable always. Say it with me now: They’re here…

11 P.M: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

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As we head into and past the witching hour, let’s spend that time with ole’ Fred Krueger. While Dream Warriors is the most fun of the Nightmare franchise, I think that Freddy was never scarier than he was in the original. The dream imagery on display here is all low-budget goodness. Wes Craven was a boss, and A Nightmare On Elm Street is his first masterwork.

1 A.M: Oculus (2013)

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Mike Flanagan is one of my favorite horror directors. Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House is a masterpiece, but before he made that show, he released Oculus in 2013. His devastating look into a family’s battle against an evil mirror remains underrated.

3 A.M: Hocus Pocus (1993)

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Watch out for the Sanderson sisters… It’s hard not to love this movie. Between the three hilarious/evil sisters and our three young leads, this cast is rocking. ‘I Put A Spell In You’ is simply the best. After Hocus Pocus, we’ve got two movies left…

5 A.M: What We Do In The Shadows (2014)

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When I watched this for the first time about two years ago, it was like a breath of fresh air. Taika Waititi has comedy chops for days. And this film is part The Office and part Interview With a Vampire. It’s funny and irrelevant, and it’s earned the 5 A.M. slot.

7 A.M: Halloween (2018)

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I had to end the night with a Michael Myers film. Last year was the original, but I don’t have a lot of love for the other films in the franchise. But then I remembered 2018’s sterling soft-reboot. It’s everything I could want from a Halloween sequel. Three generations of Strode girls against The Shape once again? It’s the perfect way to end The Noble Horror Film Festival.


The festival is over. Go home and get some rest. And tell your friends. Because The Noble Horror Film Festival will return in October of 2020…

Halloween Month!

For a horror writer or fan, October is our most beloved month. What’s not to love? It’s getting cold, the leaves are turning all kinds of beautiful colors, and the rest of the world takes horror as seriously as we do.

Halloween
A sign of the season…

So on my website, I also wanted to do something a little special. I’m going to be doing a couple of special October posts! First things first, I’m going to be writing a sequel to my Noble Film Festival from last year! This festival feels like it should be an annual thing, so we are going to be doing it all over again.

I’ll also do a book themed post (more on that to come) and an exclusive horror story! I’m treating it as a serial, with a piece coming out every day (starting on the 28th of October) and ending on All Hallow’s Eve! So keep your eyes peeled (not literally) for the spook-tastic activity here at my site!

Monthly Review: September 2019

Hello everyone! It’s been a few months since I’ve done a Monthly Review. Life has been a bit crazy lately, and my writing has taken a back seat. I did have a little movement, and once my schedule clears up, I hope to do more.

Story Submissions:

New Submissions: 1

Stories Still Out in the Wild: 2

Acceptances: 0

Rejections: 0

I submitted a flash story to a monster contest. If the story wins, I’ll know on the first of October. It’s a fun story, and if it doesn’t get picked up there, I’ll find a new locale to send it out to. I’m also still waiting on another story, and I’m thinking it will still be a few more months.

What else have I been doing?

Interview with Laird Barron!

Laird Barron

Photo Credit by Ellen Datlow

In September I interviewed the king of horror-noir, Laird Barron! Laird is one of my favorite authors, so interviewing him here was a check on my writer bucket list. It was a great interview!

My NecronomiCon Book Haul!

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Back in August I attended NecronomiCon 2019! It was a four day convention in Providence, RI, dedicated to H.P. Lovecraft. It was one of the coolest events I’ve ever attended. I bought a lot of books, and this article highlights some of the cool stuff I got my hands on.


I did want to make one more announcement: I’m Interviews to every other month. It was way too tough to hunt down an author to interview and then get them thoughtful interview questions in a timely manner. While interviewing monthly was awesome, I just don’t think I’m doing it justice! I still want to have an article come out in that first week slot, but I may switch up into something a bit more fun. More information forthcoming!

My NecronomiCon Book Haul!

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Late last month I attended what has to be the most awesome event ever: NecronomiCon Providence! If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a 4-day convention dedicated to the works of H.P. Lovecraft, as well as other giants in Weird Fiction. It’s four days of film festivals, author readings and other events. It’s one of the best parts of the convention is the books! The Vendor Hall is filled with authors and publishers, looking to sell you their extensive back catalog. I left some room in my suitcase and brought some true treasures back. Because I don’t have anything else to write about this month, let’s look at said treasures!

I picked these two books up directly from Jonathan Raab of Muzzleland Press. Muzzleland’s first anthology was also my first real publishing credit, so I’ve been a fan of them for years now. Jonathan is a pretty great guy, and both of these books look awesome. Cinematic Gothic Horror is an excellent idea for an anthology, and Jonathan’s new novel sounds like the meta-slasher tale that I need this time of year.

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I also picked up Ross Lockhart’s Giallo Fantastique. I own this one on Kindle, but I’ve been wanting to add this book to my real shelf for quite some time. If you’re a giallo fan giallo.jpgor a fan of excellent fiction, you should consider grabbing this one as well.

Continuing the theme of excellent publishers, I finally got my hand on Nightscape Press’ Ashes and Entropy.jpgnew anthology of horror noir, Ashes and Entropy. Several of the stories were signed, which looks great next to the lush art inside. I also got a chance to hang out with Robert S. Wilson and his wife, who are really wonderful people.

It’s no secret that I’m a big John Langan fan. I snagged this book from the Lovecraft Arts and Sciences storefront at the Arcade mall. I got to hear John read, and then tried not to geek out to much when I met him. It was the same story with Nathan Ballingrud. Two of the best writers in the genre, and I got personally signed copies of their books. Pretty awesome, and a highlight of my Providence visit.

I treasured my time in Providence, and I hope to have another article coming soon that will summarize my time there. If you love Weird/Horror media, NecronomiCon is worth every penny to attend.

 

Interview: Laird Barron

It’s just now September, which means we are arms length away from autumn. But summer isn’t done yet, so let’s fill some of the time with a new Author interview! Every month I’ll be interviewing authors and creators about their newest works, their lives, and what influences them. This month I’m chatting with the king of horror-noir, Laird Barron!

Laird Barron

Photo Credit by Ellen Datlow

Hello Laird! Thank you for joining me for this interview! For my first question, I want to go back to your origin story. What made you want to be a writer? What lead you to lay out words on paper for a living?

Hi, Logan. Thank you for the conversation.

I was interested in writing before I knew the alphabet. Wrote three novels by my early teens and filled a few boxes with stories, story fragments, and poetry. The idea of appearing in anthologies and magazines alongside my favorite authors was an ambition that floated around on the periphery. I recall poring over Harlan Ellison’s introductions to his Dangerous Visions books and was impressed that so many famous authors corresponded or hung out. That collegiality seemed pretty swell to a kid living in isolation in Alaska. Writing as a means to earn money didn’t coalesce until I actually started selling stories in 2000.

Your new novel Black Mountain released back in May. Both that book and your previous one (Blood Standard) feature ex-mob enforcer turned P.I., Isaiah Coleridge. When creating this character, did you draw inspiration from other books or films of the genre? 

I’ve written hardboiled characters for many years to maneuver myself into position to depict Isaiah Coleridge. He’s not a regular person, even by pulp standards. Achilles, Beowulf, Hercules, and Krishna, among others, sleep in his blood. Hunters from the Stone Age dream in his hindbrain. I’ve long thought Jules Winnfield from Pulp Fiction and Hawk from the Spenser series were fascinating. Some of my inspiration for Coleridge’s baseline aesthetic draws from that well, and the wells of John D. MacDonald, Roger Zelazny, and on the darker end of the first-person narrator spectrum, Jim Thompson.

On the film front, Takashi Miike’s general tone is influential. Peckinpah and Bergman, same. Watch it all and be awed. Michael Caine’s Carter in Get Carter. Peter Fonda was such an effective force of banal evil in The Limey. Refn’s Only God Forgives and Too Old to Die Young are way up there. I’m anticipating Destroyer with Nicole Kidman

As I read both Blood Standard and Black Mountain, I felt like I could see the groundwork for future threats that Isaiah may come up against. I’m excited to see how it all plays out! Will we be seeing more of Isaiah in the near future?

I’m working on the third chapter in Coleridge’s saga. It’s called Worse Angels and will hit shelves in 2020. He glimpsed the darkness that underlies the daylight world in Black Mountain. Unfortunately, the darkness has also seen him.

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 general advice for any writers looking to get published?

I don’t have any advice that isn’t out there. Here’s how I look at it.

The places where you are really, really hot to get published are rejecting 98 to 99% of all comers. A significant number of writers can’t sell a second story or a second or third book to the same publisher. It’s a game designed to make you quit. Learn to manage your expectations accordingly. You’ll be happier.

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 have read or am reading manuscripts by several authors. I’m also revisiting crime and noir novels from my youth. Chandler, MacDonald, Leonard. J. Todd Scott and Hilary Davidson have excellent crime novels out. Crumley’s The Last Good Kiss is a classic I overlooked until recently. Glad to have rectified that. Will be switching gears and hitting up thrillers soon—Martin Cruz Smith and Frederick Forsyth come to mind.

Last question: if you woke up tomorrow in a Laird Barron story, how do you think you would fare? If you came across a copy of The Black Guide, would you take it home with you? And how long would it take you to abandon your place at the Frazier Estate Apartments?

A Laird Barron story is merely a possible outcome of everyday existence. We have a border collie. Smart as a whip. I frequently hide somewhere in the house and she searches for me. The best trick is to challenge her a little. So, I hide when she is unaware and then wait for her to notice.

The other night I had the great idea to crouch in the dark under the dining room table. I waited patiently. Five minutes, ten minutes, now I’m a bit uncomfortable, fifteen…I figured out later that doggo and girlfriend had gone off and fallen asleep. Somebody hiding under a table to surprise his or her dog might be a Laird Barron story detail.


Yet another insightful interview! I’d like to thank Laird for his time, and thank you dear reader for joining me! If you want to pick up any of Laird Barron’s work, go through his website here: lairdbarron@wordpress.com.

And if interviews are your thing, please check out the rest of my Interview series!

The first interview with Lovecraftian extraordinaire Pete Rawlik! 

The insanely talented Kristi DeMeester!

The spooktastic Michael Wehunt!

Horror’s favorite skeleton Orrin Grey!

Artist and cryptid king Trevor Henderson!

Haunted radio jockey/author Matthew M. Bartlett!

Horror podcast maverick Gemma Amor!

Horror author (and birder!) Carrie Laben!

Video game critic (and video game Jedi) Alex Kane!

Strange story specialist Simon Strantzas!

Myth-maker Georgina Bruce!

Stoker Award Winner Nicole Cushing!

 

 

My Summer Reads So Far!

Beach

It’s summer time! The breeze is coming in off the water, the sun is out, and… I’m at work. Bummer. But don’t despair! I’ve had the chance to explore fantastic and horrific worlds from the air-conditioned comfort of my living room. I wanted to put together a post to share all the excellent books I’ve been reading this summer.

Wounds: Six Stories from the Border of Hell by Nathan Ballingrud


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When I was a kid, I spent a LOT of time in the local library. It was nice and cool for one, and for a very big two, it was filled with books.

So it seemed fitting that I start the summer off by borrowing Nathan Ballingrud’s newest collection. Wounds was truly impressive. It may be my favorite collection of the year. The world building and terror constructed here kinda’ blew my mind. I was sad to see it end.

A Collapse of Horses by Brian Evenson


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A Collapse of Horses has been in my TBR pile since late last year. When my wife and I visited Boston, we (of course) had to visit the Harvard Book Store. When I saw this fantastic cover, I knew I had to grab it.

With all the attention on Brian’s new collection, I figured it was time to unearth this book and dive in. I LOVED this collection. I find it hard to describe what I like best about Brian’s works. They are as cold as Aickman’s, but with the twisted logic of Ligotti. Maybe? Just read them. It’s sheer nightmare fuel.

Song for the Unraveling of the World by Brian Evenson


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And speaking of nightmare fuel… Brian Evenson has a new collection! While I think it’s not as perfect as A Collapse of Horses, Song for the Unraveling of the World is still an incredible read. Reading these back-to-back was like drinking some kind of sweet poison.

The Dream-Quest of Velitt Boe by Kij Johnson


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I decided to reread The Dream-Quest of Velitt Boe because it’s perfect for summer! It’s warm, interesting, and deep. It’s a short book about a long trek through H.P. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands. While I was never a fan of Lovecraft’s Dreamlands, Kij has made them a mysterious delight. I want to hang with Velitt and the cat. Please.

The Grand Dark by Richard Kadrey


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And now for the book I’m currently reading! Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim books are favorites of mine, so the promise of a new Kadrey creation made me take note. Though I’m only about mid-way through, I’m in love with this vile Steampunk fantasy world. Kadrey knows how to world-build and make it fun.


Those are my summer reads! Do you have any go to summer reads? Beachside or otherwise? Fill me in below!

Interview: Nicole Cushing

Hello everybody and welcome to July’s Interview! I’ve got an interview ready just in time for the holiday weekend! If you’re new around here, every month I’ll be interviewing authors and creators about their newest works, their lives, and what influences them. This month I’m talking to Stoker Award Winner Nicole Cushing! Her new novel releases next month, and I invited her to my blog to talk about it!

Nicole Cushing

Hello Nicole! I’m excited to be interviewing you today! I like to start with the ultimate ice-breaker request: tell us a little bit about yourself! What made you want to be a writer?

I’ve always loved language. When I was ten years old, I would entertain myself by skimming through the dictionary. I especially enjoyed finding out the backstory of words; how they came to be, their roots in other languages, for example.

Later, as a teenager, I developed an appreciation for fiction. I believe this is because the stories and poems I read in English class spoke to me in a way nothing else did. Emily Dickinson “felt a Funeral, in (her) brain”. Shakespeare stared at suicide. Poe ogled cruelty and disease. J.D. Salinger mocked the phoniness and triviality of common aspirations. Katherine Anne Porter exposed the futility of hope. Who wouldn’t want to join such a lovably degenerate gang?

Your new novel ‘A Sick Grey Laugh’ releases next month! How did this book come to be? And how did it differ from your experience writing your previous books?

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My first novel (Mr. Suicide) won the Bram Stoker Award in 2016, and in the aftermath of that celebration I found my career at a crossroads. I had to ask myself, Where do I go from here? I mulled the pros and cons of writing a second novel very much like my first. But, in the end, I took a different path.

Now, make no mistake: my usual themes of trauma, foulness, and madness do very much lurk within the pages of A Sick Gray Laugh. As does my penchant for gallows humor. But the story unfolds on a far bigger canvas than usual: the canvas of history, society, culture, and politics.

Between your Patreon (The Nightmare Institute) and workshops at places like StokerCon, you have a lot of experience in teaching writing. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

In my Patreon class, I help students learn how to write a good horror story by presenting them with a good horror story from the past, and pointing out what makes it tick. It’s a very practical, hands-on approach. In fact, I like to think of my role as being like an auto mechanics instructor. I “pop open the hood” of a good horror story, remove its engine, and take it apart so I can show my students the various components that make it run well. For those curious, I offer some free samples of classes on Youtube.

The class I’ve taught at StokerCon is similarly practical, but focused on career planning. I help students discover their unique creative identity and then help them determine the publication goals best suited for that identity.

In tying into my last question, do you have any general advice for any new writers looking to get published?

I think it’s important for new writers to realize that when they submit a story (or a novel, novella, poem, etc.) the default setting for an editor’s response is “no”. The vast majority of submissions are going to be rejected. Many of these submissions don’t actually suck, they’re just “meh”. “Meh” isn’t good enough.

In order to be accepted, you have to create something so extraordinary that it pulls the switch off its default setting. To accomplish this, a writer typically needs to spend time honing their craft. In my case, this meant engaging in dozens (hundreds?) of failed literary experiments before I finally arrived on the right path. It took years to develop my skill set. It took patience. But that patience paid dividends.

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?

Oddly enough, I made a Youtube video about this very subject last week. (My To Be Read pile is a literal pile taking up about six square feet of my office. Very telegenic.)

But I’m glad you asked the question here, because my T.B.R. pile has changed even since then! I went to the library and picked up two books: an annotated edition of Dracula (with an introduction, notes, and bibliography by Leonard Wolf), and Pushkin’s Little Tragedies.

Last question: where can people find you online?

www.Patreon.com/nicolecushing

https://www.youtube.com/user/NicoleCushingWriter

www.nicolecushing.com

As well as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Yet another great interview! If you’re interested in reading more of reviews just like this one, click the links below!

The first interview with Lovecraftian extraordinaire Pete Rawlik! 

The insanely talented Kristi DeMeester!

The spooktastic Michael Wehunt!

Horror’s favorite skeleton Orrin Grey!

Artist and cryptid king Trevor Henderson!

Haunted radio jockey/author Matthew M. Bartlett!

Horror podcast maverick Gemma Amor!

Horror author (and birder!) Carrie Laben!

Video game critic (and video game Jedi) Alex Kane!

Strange story specialist Simon Strantzas!

Myth-maker Georgina Bruce!

Monthly Review: June 2019

We’re 26 days into June, and that means it’s time for my Monthly Review! A semi-busy month for me! E3 kicked off and I managed to experience several streams worth of games. I also got a few submissions in this month and started planning for an important event coming up… But before we get to that!

Story Submissions:

New Submissions: 2

Stories Still Out in the Wild: 2

Acceptances: 1!

Rejections: 1

One acceptance, and one rejection! The acceptance was for a flash story that will be released in a large anthology of themed flash tales. I wrote a fun little vampire story. This has been your Nic Cage story acceptance sighting…

Also…

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I will be attending NecronomiCon Providence this year! Since I’ve first heard about this, I’ve wanted to attend. It will be August 22nd through the 25th in Providence, Rhode Island! I’m expecting an awesome time and I’m beyond pumped to attend.

What else have I been doing?

Interview with Georgina Bruce!

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This month’s interview was with myth-maker Georgina Bruce! We talked about her collection (This House of Wounds) and the dangers of temporal oddities. I loved interviewing Georgina, and I look forward to the rest of her work. Next month’s interview is with horror author Nicole Cushing.

Loading: The Rest of Video Games in 2019

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E3 has come and gone. I decided to not write an article post E3 (this year was just fine) but I wrote this article talking about my intentions for gaming for the rest of the year.


We are out time for the month! Check back again next week for the Author Interview for July!