So this was always the plan—
Well, the idea that my short story collection Unseaming would be one of the rewards in a Kickstarter campaign for Clockwork Phoenix 5, that has been my plan for quite some time. Most every publishing project I tackled in 2014, I had in the back of my mind (or even the front of my mind) the notion that it would double as a Kickstarter prize.
What I didn’t plan for: the way Unseaming picked up a momentum all its own. Selling over 3,000 copies so far (mostly on Kindle, where, by the way, it’s still available at 99 cents through the end of the day, that wasn’t planned either), picking up starred reviews, and now, my Creepy Book That Could is a Shirley Jackson Award finalist.
Talk about an honor. Especially when I look at the fellow finalists in my category: Helen Marshall, Simon Strantzas, Robert Shearman, Stephen Graham Jones. I’ve read or am reading three of the four books, and they’re all terrific. It’s fortuitous that Anita and I were already planning to go to Readercon in July, where the winners get announced. I’ll be in great company.
I want to thank the judges for liking the book enough to include it on that wonderful list; my publisher, Elizabeth Campbell, for making all of this possible; and all the folks who’ve helped along the way.
Something I did plan: the Clockwork Phoenix 5 campaign is floating toward the $3,500 mark (there’s quite a ways to go still, with 20 days to go as of this writing). When we hit that mark I plan to give away at least one (likely more) signed trade paperback copies of Unseaming (via names drawn from a hat) to my Kickstarter backers. I hope you’ll consider becoming one of them!
What a week, what a month, what a year.
So this was always the plan—
So, at the end of 2010, I thought my days of writing poetry were behind me. I had gone from someone excited about speculative poetry, who advocated for it anywhere the opportunity arose, to someone so burned out and dejected by the state of the scene that I doubted I’d ever write it again. It depressed me to no end. (For evidence, what I wrote back then in a locked post: “For many months, when it comes to writing poetry, I’ve been blocked. Even the thought of trying depressed me.”)
Along came C.S.E. Cooney, who rained down prompts on me and encouraged her friends and family to do the same. (Nicole Kornher-Stace, Patty Templeton and Sita Aluna (Claire’s mum!) all participated, as I recall.)
And it worked. The wall that kept the poetry from me crumbled away. The result: a cycle of a dozen poems that I call the Claire-dare poems, that have a special place in my dark heart.
As of this spring, the last unpublished Claire-dare appeared in the world — with the appearance of “The Bone Bird” in the latest issue of Spectral Realms — and I wanted to take stock of the series. I’ve listed them in the order I wrote them, still preserved in a series of locked Livejournal posts. Then noted where they ended up and when, and if it’s still possible to read them or get hold of them, I’ve included the link:
- “Sad Wisps of Empty Smoke,” Van Gogh’s Ear, Jan. 9, 2015
- “Binary,” Fantastique Unfettered 4, December 2011
- “Empty Nest,” Illumen, Spring 2011
- “The Bone Bird,” Spectral Realms 2, Winter 2015
- “Heart’s Delight,” Not One of Us 46, October 2011
- “The Vigil,” Goblin Fruit, Autumn 2012
- “Sisyphus Crawls,” Fantastique Unfettered 4, December 2011
- “Seed the Earth, Burn the Sky,” Fantastique Unfettered 4, December 2011
- “These Wonders Are Yours,” Illumen, Spring 2011
- “A Prayer,” Fandom Forever 1, March 2012
- “The Unkindest Kiss,” Apex Magazine 20, April 28, 2011
- “La Donna del Lago,” Strange Horizons, August 22, 2011
Once upon a time I wouldn’t have thought twice about gathering these up into a chapbook of some sort. Any thoughts out there about this idea?
(I should mention that the new Spectral Realms also holds a rare “Dwarf Stars”-sized poem from me, “Purloined.” And that an upcoming issue will contain the poem I actually co-wrote with C.S.E. Cooney, “Toujours Il Coûte Trop Cher.”)
So I’ve written a new Lovecraftian tale, my first explicit stab at the Mythos since “Her Acres of Pastoral Playground” appeared in Cthulhu’s Reign in 2010.
My new story is called “The Sun Saw,” and I’m proud to share that it will be appearing in Joseph S. Pulver’s forthcoming anthology The Leaves of a Necronomicon.
The premise of Joe’s book is delightful — Leaves traces the ownership of a single volume of The Necronomicon through the decades, in the manner of Accordion Crimes by Annie Proulx. Some contributors were asked to coordinate their efforts for narrative consistency. I, however, was not. I was asked to set my story in the 1950s, which I did.
“The Sun Saw” takes place in the same milieu as my story “Gutter” from Unseaming, though a casual reader probably wouldn’t find any evidence of that. You’ll just have to take my word for it for now; I’m working on a couple of stories that would make the connections clear, but they’re nowhere close to finished.
Chaosium intends to release The Leaves of a Necronomicon in August. (August will be a big month for me, as that’s when Rhonda Parrish’s Corvidae anthology is also scheduled to drop, with my new story “The Cruelest Team Will Win,” set in the same continuum as my stories “The Hiker’s Tale” and “Follow the Wounded One.”)
Speaking of works tied to other works, which I seem to be doing a lot of lately, my poem “Dearly Beloved,” published last year in Postscripts to Darkness, landed a Rhysling Award nomination. The poem is set in the same far future Earth as my short stories “Twa Sisters” and “Still Life With Skull.” (And I’m right now working on a new story in that series.)
I’m grateful to Dominik Parisien for giving the poem a home (this is on top of all the work he did editing my newest poetry collection, Hungry Constellations.) I owe the man at least a beer, don’t you think?
Ha! I’m been so busy doing things I’ve fallen behind on the blogistic duty of explaining what I’ve been up to. Well, this is a good way to return to form.
My Unseaming “book tour” is over, or has at least landed in a long pause. (I hope to share more about what all of that was like very soon!) My (Gruesome) Little Collection That Could has picked up some more nice notices along the way, though.
Locus Online has reprinted the review by Stefan Dziemianowicz that ran in the March print issue of Locus. It’s a review I feel incredibly lucky to have:
Allen can write as lyrically and as viscerally as the best of them … an exceptional debut collection, and its stories show an imaginative writer with a very original voice working at the top of his game.
You just can’t turn your eyes away from the stunning cover by Danielle Tunstall: the seams of the skin coming undone and revealing the new flesh beneath. The image is a perfect introduction to the haunting world of Mike Allen, one of the most original practitioners of the body horror subgenre since Clive Barker’s Books of Blood.
When I was 16, The Books of Blood were my favorite books, period. And I’m still fond of them 30 years later. So you can imagine how that review made me feel…
Ticks are never easy to spot. An intelligent species of them would be especially evasive, n’est-ce pas?
Folks familiar with my work might find my short story “Tick Flick” an unusually sweet and sentimental depiction of friendship, except that the friends so depicted happen to be giant, sentient ticks. Obviously I wrote this story with commercial conformity in mind.
Accepted by the disturbed gentlemen of The Drabblecast, “Tick Flick” was tentatively scheduled for a spring release, but instead crept under the seams of 2014 and bit down just before the joint of New Year’s Eve, becoming, without my knowing it, my final publication of the old year rather than the first story of the new.
Drabblecast released “Tick Flick” as a “B-Side,” meaning you must be a subscriber in order to hear it. If this issue’s gorgeous cover art doesn’t get you to sign up (which you can do here) then I don’t know what’s wrong with you. Feast your eyes:
Fans of weird fiction have been very good to my debut collection, Unseaming — it’s easily the fastest-selling title I’ve ever produced in my 20 years of doing this kind of thing. (And though out-selling my previous titles leaps a pretty low bar, had you told me four months ago that my royalty earnings were going to surpass the equivalent of 6 cents/word for all 14 stories, I would have laughed at you.) I put a lot of work into this book, but I sure didn’t make that happen alone, so again, again, thank you to everyone who has helped out this strange little tome.
I’m reasonably certain that at least some of the folks who like Unseaming would also get a kick out of my dark fantasy novel The Black Fire Concerto. The overwhelming majority of sales for Unseaming have been Kindle sales, specifically American Kindle sales. So, operating on the principle that too late is better than never, and with thanks to publishers Antimatter Press and Haunted Stars for making this easy, part one of The Black Fire Concerto, “The Red Empress,” has been added to the Kindle edition of Unseaming. (Rose Lemberg’s idea, thank you!) If you bought Unseaming before I added “The Red Empress,” my understanding is that you can update your copy; at least the information linked here strongly implies it.
The book also newly contains a link to register for my fresh-minted newsletter (thanks for this idea to Shveta Thakrar), which, if anyone actually subscribes to it, I will use to provide updates on my next ventures into The Weird. (I do have things planned, oh yes I do.)
And: THIS IS HAPPENING! IT REALLY IS!
I hope to see you there if you can make it.
So I waited until all the pieces were in place before formally announcing this one, though I’ve been plugging it on Twitter for a lil’ while now. Behold The Sky-Riders, a new novelette that’s quite a departure for me, available in numerous online places in electronic and audiobook editions.
About five years ago I got a hankering to create a story that would be nothing like the dream-like dark fantasy and horror I tend to produce when left to my own devices. It would be fun! Upbeat! Retro! A Western, even, a steampunk Western! I didn’t intend, however, to try this dangerous stunt alone. I turned to my longtime friend and newspaper colleague Paul Dellinger, whose knowledge of both the Western genre and the Old West is jaw-dropping. (And I knew it would be fun to collaborate with Paul, so this was a great excuse.)
Paul and I and Anita began to brainstorm characters and plotlines; my friend Shalon Hurlbert, too, contributed some ideas about how a solar-powered airship built in the 1890s might work. I ended up asking Paul to tackle the first draft, because what I wrote to start us off with had the wrong feel, or so it seemed to me. And I loved what Paul came up with; the final story is altered from his first draft only in subtle ways, so his name goes first as far as I’m concerned.
We think we concocted something fun and, in its own way, refreshingly different, but we didn’t connect with an editor, as happens, y’know? Paul and I had already discussed going the self-publishing route when I saw some samples of artwork from Orion Zangara and Derek L. Chase that made me realize they would do a wonderful job of creating a cover to go with our story. That sealed the deal.
I have a number of e-books out, but Sky-Riders is my first ever straightforward direct-to-self-publishing venture. Paul’s as well. When he met Anita and I for dinner prior to the book’s release, Anita suggested that perhaps Sky-Riders could also be an audiobook, especially given my experience working with Robert G. Davis on The Black Fire Concerto — Davis works at what a great science fiction film labeled “ludicrous speed.”
And lo! And behold! Here it is. I hope you’ll check it out. This link leads a page that shows all the places you can buy it.
Paul also has a wonderful collection out with a Golden Age of SF feel from start to finish, Mr. Lazarus and Other Stories. I hope you’ll check that out too.
My first published novel, The Black Fire Concerto, started its term of undeadness in this world as an Amazon exclusive. This past year I’ve been gradually pulling all my books (or having them pulled out) of all such Amazon-only deals, and Black Fire Concerto is the last to make that change.
Coincidentally, through an unrelated confluence of circumstances (detailed here), narrator Robert G. Davis recorded an audiobook edition of the novel, which required me to relicense the wonderful digital painting by Lauren K. Cannon that Haunted Stars Publications acquired for my cover.
And on the third hand, between the Summer 2013 release of Black Fire Concerto and now, I drafted a sequel, The Ghoulmaker’s Aria (which will also have cover art from Lauren). So — though I want it known, I was absolutely delighted by John Woolley’s original design for Haunted Stars — creating the new audiobook cover demanded a design that lets listeners know the first book is part of a series. (Which I decided to call The Stormblight Symphony; I imagine it as a grim score played out in four movements.) Once I did all that for one edition, it only made sense to change the rest.
And so, The Black Fire Concerto has a new look and new hangouts. (And new prices, with the paperback now set to $14.95 and the e-book to $4.99.)
Here’s where you can find it now:
trade paperback • e-book • audiobook
trade paperback • e-book • audiobook
trade paperback • e-book • audiobook
Barnes & Noble:
trade paperback • e-book
e-book • audiobook
Though it’s possible I still looked productive to most everyone else, I went through a long spell in 2013 and the first half of 2014 where I wasn’t selling any new work. (These things happen to writers, heh. Perhaps worth noting, if you don’t believe me, that all the stories that appeared in Unseaming were written in 2012 or earlier.) In mid-2014 my dry spell thawed (mangled metaphor!) and it appears things remain too warm for now for the drought to return.
I’m honored that the following places will showcase works of mine in months to come:
• Lackington’s has accepted my new short story “The Spider Tapestries,” a surreal piece that’s perhaps set in a fantasy milieu, or an alien world, or maybe even a far-future dreamscape. The story’s scheduled to appear in October.
• Rhonda Parrish’s avian-themed anthology Corvidae will feature my new short story “The Cruelest Team Will Win.” It’s a dark fantasy from the same world visited in my stories “The Hiker’s Tale” and “Follow the Wounded One.” This will be the first time I’ve had a third story in a series published, I’m quite thrilled about that; I’m also thrilled to return to this setting and these characters. I’ve written a whole novel (still unpublished) set in this universe. “The Cruelest Team Will Win” takes place after the events of the novel, but makes use of one of the novel’s nastiest villains. My thanks to Rhonda for the opportunity to do this.
• Not new to me but new to the rest of the world: a poem I co-wrote years ago with C.S.E. Cooney, “Toujours Il Coûte Trop Cher,” sold last week to S.T. Joshi for use in his dark poetry journal Spectral Realms. The topic of the poem was Claire’s idea, rooted in the curious fact that famed martyred heroine Joan of Arc and reviled serial killer Gilles de Rais once fought side by side against the British. Back when we first wrote the poem, we tried it out a few places, it didn’t sell; we set it down, contemplating whether or not it might need more work, and let it sit, and sit, and sit. And then, this month, we dusted it off after all that time in storage, tried it on S.T. first thing and he snatched it up. I guess we just needed to wait for the right market to come along.
UPDATE: And the winner is … Shawna Lenore Kastin. Thanks to all who participated!
So, first, the giveaway rules: If you want to enter this giveaway for C.S.E. Cooney’s beautiful debut fantasy collection Bone Swans (introduction by Gene Wolfe, coming in July from Mythic Delirium Books, i.e. Anita’n’me) just leave a comment on this blog post (or the duplicate ones at Mythic Delirium Books or The Plasteel Spider Factory). Creativity encouraged, but not required: “Me! Me! Me, please!” will suffice. I will take entries until midnight EST Thursday. Then Anita and I will randomly draw the winner of the first ever ARC of Bone Swans to ever be printed.
We’re doing this cross-promotion (my thanks to Shveta Thakrar for the idea!) as a gonzo way to celebrate the early birthday present Anita and I received today (both of our birthdays falling within the next four days). To give some perspective: at the beginning of October, when my debut short story collection, Unseaming, was about to launch, Anita asked me what I was hoping would come of it. Being quite familiar with the limits of small press publications, I said something to the effect of, “I would love for this book to sell 1,000 copies. But realistically speaking, we’ll be lucky if it breaks 500.”
Well, as of this evening, Unseaming has passed 1,000 copies sold — and it’s still going! In my career, this is a true watershed moment. Thank you, world! Thanks to everyone who chose to promote the book and to all of you who chose to buy it!
Offering a copy of our next project is one way we are giving back. However, as the giveaway is open to everyone, and as Unseaming is a very different book from Bone Swans, and as some of you bought Unseaming just to help make this giveaway happen (and others, presumably, because you actually wanted Unseaming), Anita and Claire and I want to make sure that those who helped bring this about get something out of it regardless of who wins the copy.
So, if you bought a copy of Unseaming, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org that says “I helped!” and I will share with you a never-before-published epic horror poem that Claire and I co-wrote. I ask that you not share it publicly anywhere. (Unless you are a publisher and are interested in sharing it that way. Then we’ll talk!)
Thanks, folks! Comment away!