So anyway — where were we?

“Life is what happens when you’re making other plans,” said John Lennon.

Not-Dead-Just-Resting-Tardy-1Shortly after my last post here, the first clouds of family crisis blackened the horizon. Priorities began to shift. Soon, exactly three years ago, I lost both parents at once. On the publication day for my most recent novel, The Immaculate Void, I woke up to the not-expected news that my mom had just died.

In the course of normal lifetimes, this is the way of it. You bury the people who brought you into the world. But this was still like ripping off the jumbo-size Band-Aid all at once.

I was appointed executor of their estate, and that was pretty much my life for the next year-plus. A few matters continued to drag on, from 2018 to 2019 to 2020 and beyond. The estate was only able to be closed several weeks ago. The Band-Aid was long off, but the scab took forever.

In the meantime, fresh works of mine — new books, new stories, new film and TV options — came and sometimes went. I had things in the pipeline that continued to pop out, but without much replenishment, the pipeline eventually emptied.

And I was strangely okay with that.

Lifequakes, I’ve recently seen them called: these seismic events that leave our lives forever changed, for better or for worse or neither, just different. Their aftershocks reach into places you wouldn’t think they would and shake things up, sometimes radically: career changes, ended relationships, new missions, old interests falling away as new interests rise to take their place. It’s surprisingly common, I’ve learned.

Just plain surprising, too. After many years of writing various forms of horror — not exclusively, but predominantly, from body horror to folk horror to industrial horror to cosmic horror, and more — I would never have expected to finally get clear of this gauntlet and realize horror no longer interested me.

It gets weirder. At this point, I may not even be a writer at all anymore. Not in the sense of retirement, but rather of negation. Nothing of the caterpillar remains in the butterfly. It dissolved and the soup reconstituted into its own separate thing.

But I’m still sorting that one out. With a good, epic lifequake, it can take three to five years for the dust to fully settle, for the integration of the aftershocks to be complete. I don’t want to write again, necessarily … but I’d like to want to, if that makes sense.

And that’s enough for now. More to come.

Apparently as a birthday present last week, Cemetery Dance Publications transformed I’ll Bring You the Birds From Out of the Sky from a forthcoming hypothetical to a real live book.

BIRDS-Cover265And a gorgeous little real live book it is, too.

With cover and interior color plates by Kim Parkhurst that both illustrate the novella and reflect the cache of bizarre Appalachian folk art at the heart of it, this turned into a uniquely beautiful project … everything I hoped it would be … and I couldn’t be happier with it.

With the one-off synergy of my storyline meeting the perfect art and artist plus a publisher willing to go the extra miles to make something exceedingly cool, I can’t see the stars aligning quite this way again. Get your copy here, straight from the source. When they’re gone, they’re gone.

It’s a cluster of releases lately, with four projects squirting out in less than a month’s span. This one is a novelette in the latest in the series of mini-anthologies jointly produced by Cemetery Dance Publications and Random House. E-books now, big hardcover omnibus edition later.

DarkScreams7It answers the burning question: What happens when a hard electro band from Mexico City gets kidnapped by a cartel enforcer from MS-13 with a whole other agenda involving Santa Muerte and the land’s legacy of bloodlust, from pre-Colombian human sacrifice to the Matamoros cult murders to the cartel wars?

It’s the most vicious thing I’ve done in ages. Most of it got written last year while I was laid up after a severe knee injury, so, knowing that, you can tell I really wanted to take it out on someone.

I’ll just let some early reader reviews on Amazon take it from here.

• “West of Matamoros, North of Hell” chilled me to the bone. It took me 2 days to finish because I kept getting freaked out. I remember when this happened, “the real part,” and it’s still a chilling story. Also, Brian Hodge always manages to scare me silly.

• Always a favorite of mine, Brian Hodge goes very dark in this not to be missed story about ink and music.

• Without a doubt the most terrifying story in the collection for me. I am well aware of the problems of drug cartels within the boundaries of our southern neighbor, and have seen videos of their savagery. This story seriously hits a nerve.


Here’s a project where everybody brought their A-game. I wrote a novella set in the mountains of West Virginia. At the heart of it is a cache of old paintings by an untrained artist who tried to his bitter end to depict the undepictable.

Then the folks at Cemetery Dance Publications and I thought, hey, wouldn’t it be great to illustrate it with folk art-style color plates? Enter artist Kim Parkhurst, who knocked it out of the park. And now it’s up for preorder, in advance of the release in a few weeks.

BIRDS-Cover265Folk horror? It’s that. Cosmic horror? That too. But beyond subgenre labels, what is it? For me, it’s always about the characters most of all. There’s a world-weary gallery owner. And a pair of idealistic junior college students desperate to find a way to stay where they want to live even though their Appalachian region has no future for them.

Then there’s an unnamed chorus of elderly busybodies who provide an ongoing and sometimes contradictory kaleidoscope of windows into the distant past, and the man none of them could understand.

The landscape of mountains and hollows is a character too. And then maybe there’s also the largest living thing on earth in there somewhere.

Yeah, that’s about it. If it sounds like your kind of thing, have at it.

First copy off the press, still with that new book smell.

First copy off the press, still with that new book smell.

In an instantly successful Kickstarter campaign, the world of last year’s Tales of the Lost Citadel anthology is being ported over to a roleplaying game. And other stuff. Which is where I come in…

Citadel-Banner435The project hit its base funding in the first 24 hours, and has since made almost every stretch goal — including the soundtrack I’ll be composing and recording for — with just the last couple goals left…

Including a novel spinning off from “The Sport of Crows.” Which was a novelette wherein I put on my Robert E. Howard pants to unleash a perfect storm of mayhem, bigotry, and honor in a Tolkeinesque world on the brink of total ruin. Sure would be fun to go back in.

So go forth and explore yonder Kickstarter page, and see if anything here catches your fancy enough to back the project.


It’s the one question every writer has heard, probably more times than we can count: “Where do you get your ideas?”

Treasure — sometimes in the places you least expect it.

Treasure — sometimes in the places you least expect it.

I don’t know why it seems so stereotypically targeted to writers. I can’t think of anyone else who’s supposed to answer this with any regularity. So I’m genuinely curious: Do session guitarists get asked this? Research chemists? Or choreographers? A couple months ago I read Twyla Tharp’s quasi-memoir, The Creative Habit, and she left no doubts as to her process, but didn’t mention anyone inquiring about it as if it were some shrouded mystery.

Theory: The mystery comes from writing’s spartan, sedentary nature, in which we work with nothing that anyone else can see. We just type. That’s it. Twyla Tharp goes into her studio and starts moving, and maybe magic happens. It’s probably fascinating and beautiful to observe. But me and my kind? We just sit and type. There is no writer’s equivalent of guitar face. We don’t headbang while channeling stuff through our fingers. There is no body language except slumping. We just sit here and fucking type, with random catatonic states in which not even that happens.

“This is how I look when I work,” said no writer, ever.

“This is how I look when I work,” said no writer, ever.

Guaranteed, if you were in this room with me right now and not allowed to play with the cats, you could only watch me ignoring you, you would be ready to kill one or both of us within five minutes.

It isn’t that we work with nothing. It’s that the raw material has no tangibility on the outside. Still, it’s there, and it has to come from somewhere, either passively … or not so passively, recalling the advice of Jack London:

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.[click to continue…]

I never expected it to shake out quite this way.

YBDFH_2017(175)For a few years, just to have something to shoot for, it’s been an unspoken stretch goal to see three separate stories make it into various year’s best editions. Which seemed as though that would take three different anthologies.

First, it was Paula Guran with her pick of “Mommy’s Little Man” for The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2017. That’s one.

Next it was Ellen Datlow seeing fit to drop “It’s All the Same Road in the End” into The Best Horror of the Year Volume 9. That’s two.

BHoY_v9(175)And then, a couple weeks later, came Ellen’s gobsmacking followup that she would also be concluding the book with “On These Blackened Shores of Time.” One author represented by two stories in the same volume…? That almost never happens.

But there it is. Three is three.

Coming in June and July. Maybe I’ll even be off the fainting couch by then.

Every Time I Think I’m Out of Innsmouth, They Pull Me Back In

March 8, 2017

After months of a vow of silence, I can at last make utterances about this without getting flogged. Last fall, I had a dream gig. For the first volume in editor Stephen Jones’ next “mosaic novel” project, a slice of cosmic noir called The Lovecraft Squad, I had the pleasure of retelling “The Shadow Over […]

Read the full article →

Twitter: Because I didn’t already have enough time-leeches to suck away the day

February 16, 2017

That little bird newly landed over in the Connect widget? Yeah. I held out as long as I could, but the Twitter tractor beam finally latched on and pulled me in. Apparently I showed up several years too late to claim my just plain name, so if’n you’re of a mind to, you can find me there as […]

Read the full article →

An 8-Step Guide to Doing the Impossible

February 2, 2017

There’s one factor that changes any scenario which exceeds what you believe you’re capable of doing: a gun to your head. What’s that, Hercules? You say there’s no way you can possibly clean out the Augean Stables in one day? [clickety-click] How about NOW? For most of us, the guns may be metaphorical, but they’re […]

Read the full article →

Dawn of Heresies: New Novel Alert!

January 18, 2017

When my back was turned this past weekend, they sneaked out my newest novel. Like the Hellboy novel I did some years back, Dawn of Heresies is the result of what I call getting to play in someone else’s yard … in this instance, the White Wolf gaming universe in general, and specifically, the world of […]

Read the full article →

The Abandoned Interview

January 12, 2017

The beginning of the year is a good times for wrapping up loose ends. Here’s one. Several months ago, at an online magazine, I took part in a group interview with a few other writers, including Jasper Bark, Jonathan Janz, and Mercedes Murdock Yardley. Word was, Kealan Patrick Burke would be joining us in mid-stream. […]

Read the full article →

The 5 Most Useful Books I Read In 2016

January 4, 2017

Surrealist artist Salvador Dali was almost as quotable as Oscar Wilde. I’ve always liked this nugget in particular: “At the age of six I wanted to be a cook. At seven, I wanted to be Napoleon. My ambition has been growing steadily ever since.” Which is about what you’d expect from a guy with a […]

Read the full article →

“Mommy’s Little Man” Rises Again

December 23, 2016

Just slipping this in as filler in a pre-holiday week when nobody is, or should be, paying attention… Editor Paula Guran has tossed “Mommy’s Little Man” — last month’s heartwarming family comedy — into the mix for the 2017 edition of The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror. Which makes me happy, but what I […]

Read the full article →

Tales of the Lost Citadel: “The Sport of Crows”

December 13, 2016

If you were one of the Kickstarter backers of this shared world anthology — think the Walking Dead invades an alternate Middle Earth — then Yule is coming early for you. Squalling, newborn copies are making their way into the world at this very moment. Thanks for putting up in advance to help make this […]

Read the full article →