After the upheavals of the past three years, there’s this welcome bit of new news, in a (qualified) return to normality. I’ve recently contracted with Cemetery Dance Publications for full-length collection #6, titled Black Hole Sundown.

Plans include an edition for everybody: hardcover, trade paperback, and e-book formats. Too early to say yet when it will be released.

A small detail from cover artist Vincent Chong’s conceptual sketch. Out of such simple seeds come gorgeousness and gorgeosity.

A small detail from cover artist Vincent Chong’s conceptual sketch. Out of such simple seeds come gorgeousness and gorgeosity.

But is it going to look gorgeous? Oh yes indeed. Cover art duties are again being handled by Vincent Chong, who also did the covers for Picking the Bones (collection #4) and CD’s big fat doorstop edition of Dark Advent.

Earlier this week I saw his conceptual sketch — of which the above bit is less than 10% of the whole — and am salivating in anticipation of the finished piece. Vinny will be weaving his take on various story imagery into a panoramic weirdscape that flows across the dust jacket like a wrap-around mural.

And the stories themselves? Here’s the rundown:

“West of Matamoros, North of Hell”
“Insanity Among Penguins”
“Rut Seasons”
“It’s All the Same Road in the End”
“The Lone and Level Sands Stretch Far Away”
“Butcher’s Blend”
“Weird Shadows Over Innsmouth”
“He Sings of Salt and Wormwood”
“Mommy’s Little Man”
“I Was a Teenage Shroom Fiend”
“The Weight of the Dead”
“On These Blackened Shores of Time”
“Endnotes: So Long, and Thanks for All the Squid”

This comprises most of my shorter works from the last few years, written since the cutoff point for Skidding Into Oblivion — the ones that fit the horror theme, and leaving out the more fantasy-oriented pieces, in hopes they’ll someday have their own dedicated volume.

When last we spoke, I hit the highlights of why, after less than two years and one year in print, respectively, The Immaculate Void and Skidding Into Oblivion disappeared from the market.

They were not the first. By then, this was already becoming an unfortunate trend.

Whom the Gods Would Destroy - original DarkFuse cover

Whom the Gods Would Destroy – original DarkFuse cover

Several months before the family crises erupted, a publisher I’d worked with on a few mostly novella-length projects decided to shut down, so its founder could focus on another business. Thus, the books went poof, including Whom the Gods Would Destroy, which had done very well, and amassed a raft of great reviews from twice being featured as an Amazon daily deal.

My thought: Since these titles had already paid for their keep, why not gather them with a couple other suitable orphans and try an experiment with self-publishing them? We’re talking:

  • Whom the Gods Would Destroy
  • Without Purpose, Without Pity
  • Worlds of Hurt
  • “Asleep at the Wheel” (my early Nightmare On Elm Street novelette)
  • The Horizon Out of Time (originally titled In the Negative Spaces, from Dark City)
Whom the Gods Would Destroy - recreated cover

Whom the Gods Would Destroy – recreated cover

In the first several weeks of 2018, I was making steady progress: putting them all through a new polish draft, working on new covers, studying the business aspects of establishing my own imprint, to be called Green Abbey Media, and a load of other details.

Then the meteors started to hit. The lifequakes kept on a-shakin’.

I’m only just now entertaining the thought of getting back to this time-consuming project, even if I don’t have the same enthusiasm for it —  not yet, at least.

The Horizon Out of Time - cover art in arrested development

The Horizon Out of Time – cover art in arrested development

Funny, this: When you retrieve the things you were forced to drop as Big Chaos hit, it may not be a good feeling. They don’t feel like patient friends who’ve been waiting for you to rejoin them so you can all get to work again.

It’s more like returning to a stale room in a vacant house where some irreversible calamity happened. That blackened energy still hangs thick in the air, and when you pick up random shards that are right where you left them, it takes you back, to relive how they got broken. They deserve better, but it’s easier to let them lie a little longer.

My perceptions, anyway. Your post-apocalyptic mileage may vary.

It’ll happen, and these titles will live again — I feel sure of that. But, like everything, they need the proper time and space to sprout anew.

Three years ago today was publication day for my new novel, The Immaculate Void. But it was on my mind only for the first couple minutes out of bed around 5:30, at which point I learned my mom had unexpectedly died about an hour before.

VoidCover265Get up, get out, get moving — that’s my routine. I go for a trail run, or jump rope in the park we live by. This time of year it’s wise to check the weather app to see how many layers to dress in. Instead, I found that my phone had been blowing up with voicemails. All from the same number in my hometown 1000 miles away.

Even before I dug into them, I knew. I just knew.

This was 23 days after my dad’s equally unexpected death.

So the novel came out, and wasn’t really on my radar. It felt sort of cursed. Unfortunately, irrespective of how proud I was of it, it was never much on my radar. I was soon to learn that, with parents who had died faster than the speed of paperwork, and who’d named me in their wills as executor of their estate, the next year was already spoken for, effective immediately.

Ten months after Void, came my fifth full-length collection, Skidding Into Oblivion. I considered them companion volumes, since they began as a single project that got split in two. Thus, the same publisher.

SkiddingCover265And here’s where the trouble began. Roughly nine months later, the publisher’s carefully curated longtime image was swamped under a tidal wave of credible accusations: financial malfeasance, grotesque human resources violations, let’s call them, and so on.

Did I mention cursed?

I spent the next several weeks laboring to get back my rights to both books. For starters, it was the right thing to do. These allegations never actually seemed to be publicly refuted. As well, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see a publisher, under the circumstances, declare bankruptcy. The last thing you want is for your beloved intellectual property to become frozen assets in a bankruptcy case.

As well, on the not-cursed side of the ledger, both books had drawn legit film and TV interest, and I very much wanted to protect those deals.

Things worked out. As of late January last year, my rights were mine again and the media deals were shielded. On the downside, both books went off the market immediately, except for audio versions I only learned about several months later.

I mentioned malfeasance, right?

So if you can’t find print or ebook editions anywhere … that’s why.

For now, I’m happy to deal with readers directly, by email. That’s been working fine, until the books can go back on the market … and I’m in no hurry there. The Immaculate Void is currently being developed as a limited TV series, and if it goes the distance, that could lend more leverage for a new edition.

But as vanishing books go … these were not the first.

More soon.

Mr T Lotta Mo

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.

Amazon

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.

The Final Days To Make This Lost Citadel Novel Happen

June 28, 2017

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… The project hit its base funding in the first 24 hours, and has since made almost every stretch goal — including […]

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Idea Safari: Stalking the Wild, Untamed Spark of Inspiration

April 27, 2017

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

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The Year’s-Best Trifecta: Achievement Unlocked

April 13, 2017

I never expected it to shake out quite this way. 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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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. […]

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