First poem of 2015: Sad Wisps of Empty Smoke

/ January 11th, 2015 / 2 Comments »

The eclectic interview site Van Gogh’s Ear has published the first new creative work of mine to appear in 2015, my poem “Sad Wisps of Empty Smoke.” It certainly nestles well with the dark work I’ve had published of late. For all its baroque imagery, it’s a pretty personal poem.
Sad Wisps
In late 2010, after a fallow period wherein I’d had a block when it came to writing poetry, my buddy C.S.E. Cooney piled a ton of poem prompts on me and encouraged friends and family to do the same. It worked; I started writing poetry again, producing a series I now refer to as the “Claire-dare” poems, posted in locked entries on my LiveJournal. “Sad Wisps of Empty Smoke” was the first of these poems, but it wasn’t in response to a prompt. It was the poem I had to get out of the way before the others could emerge.
Four years later, it’s nearly the last of the series to see print (so to speak). There’s one more Claire-dare poem remaining to be published, “The Bone Bird,” forthcoming in S.T. Joshi’s poetry magazine Spectral Realms, scheduled for its very next issue. I imagine I’ll do a bigger roundup post once they’re all in the world.
(For the curious, the first of the series to see print was “The Unkindest Kiss,” published January 2011 in Apex Magazine by then-editor Catherynne Valente; the final poem written in the series, “La Donna del Lago,” dedicated to Claire, was bought by Sonya Taaffe for Strange Horizons and appeared August 2011.)
My thanks to Tina Ayres for giving “Sad Wisps” a home.

THE BLACK FIRE CONCERTO audiobook available now

/ January 7th, 2015 / No Comments »

Actually, it’s been available since New Year’s Eve, but I’ve only now gotten around to writing a blog post about it. If you’re willing to brave a 30-day free trial of, than you can get my new book free along with it. I’m thrilled it came together so fast (and that’s all due to the work of narrator Robert G. Davis.)

UNSEAMING a nominee for This Is Horror best story collection award

/ January 7th, 2015 / No Comments »

I woke up this morning to the news that my book Unseaming is a nominee for the 2014 This Is Horror Awards in the category Short Story Collection of the Year. Both nominations and awards are chosen by popular vote, and the competition is fearsome, including Stephen Graham Jones’ After the People Lights Have Gone Off, Helen Marshall’s Gifts for the One Who Comes After, Simon Strantzas’ Burnt Black Suns (which I just read and enjoyed) and John F.D. Taff’s The End in All Beginnings.
Voting is open to all. These are the instructions:

The This Is Horror Awards 2014 are now open. Please send your votes to with the subject line ‘Awards 2014 Votes’. To cast a vote simply write the category and your vote for each award. You may vote for your top two in each category. For example:
1. First choice
2. Second choice

Just as exciting, as Nicole Kornher-Stace pointed out to me: my book is on an awards list with the best movie I saw last year, Snowpiercer. It’s not really sinking in.
Thanks to all who voted, and to everyone who has given Unseaming such amazing support.

Coming in 2015: THE BLACK FIRE CONCERTO audiobook

/ December 16th, 2014 / 1 Comment »

So this was a surprise. A reader (or is that listener?) contacted me in late September via Twitter to tell me how much he enjoyed The Black Fire Concerto excerpt that appeared on Tales to Terrify (“Part One: The Red Empress,” read by the amazing C.S.E. Cooney) and to ask if there were any plans to release the entire novel in audio form. When I replied that there were not, he came back with, I know a guy…
That guy turned out to be Robert G. Davis, a voice over artist in Los Angeles who does freelance book narrations through the Amazon satellite program ACX. He worked with astonishing speed — the complete first draft of the 8-hour-plus recording was in before Thanksgiving, and he turned around the extensive and nitpicky changes I asked for within a day or two of when I asked for them, sometimes within an hour. Just as vitally, he was extremely patient, as I was already overbooked with other projects, and it took me quite a while to weave hours upon hours of sitting and attentively listening into my schedule, heh.
But now I’ve listened to my own novel twice (and what a curious experience that was!) and I’ve clicked the “approve” button, and this totally unexpected audiobook should be available in January.
For the record, for my fellow writers who might be interested in trying this, I endorse both trying out ACX and working with Rob.
Those few and proud who have actually paid attention will note that this edition of the The Black Fire Concerto is billed as “Book One” and the series now has a name. This might have something to do with the existence of “Book Two,” The Ghoulmaker’s Aria, which I also plan to release in 2015, though making the time to do that will be a peril-fraught venture…

My poem Hungry Constellations is a Rhysling honoree

/ December 15th, 2014 / No Comments »

Hungry Constellations coverMy thanks to the voting membership of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, who bestowed a 2nd place Rhysling Award (in the “long poem” category) on my poem “Hungry Constellations,” which first appeared as a feature presentation in the absolutely essential Goblin Fruit, and is now the title poem of my latest collection. This poem means a lot to me, so to have empirical evidence that it resonates with others is wonderful.
Regarding the other winners, I’m compelled to show off some of the hard-won Rhysling expertise I acquired back when I was president of the SFPA. First, congratulations to Mary Soon Lee, who actually won the long category, her first win. She’s been producing great poetry for many years and I’m glad to see her at last get the nod. Her poem “Interregnum” is part of an extensive interconnected cycle “The Sign of the Dragon,” of which I’ve read a few others; I look forward to seeing the completed book. Congratulations too to third place winner Rose Lemberg, an incredible poet receiving her first Rhysling nod for “I will show you a single treasure from the treasures of Shah Niyaz.” Her piece is also a part of a cycle of “Birdverse” poems and stories.
A special congratulations to Amal El-Mohtar, whose “Turning the Leaves” won the short poem category. This makes Amal the first woman to win the Rhysling Award three times. To my knowledge, she was already the first PoC to win the award (in 2009, with “Song for an Ancient City,” from Mythic Delirium, and don’t you think I’ll ever let anyone forget that watershed moment for the zine.) In addition, she also published this year’s 2nd and 3rd place long poem winners (by me & Rose!) — and this kind of writer/editor sweep isn’t new to her. In 2011, when her “Peach-Creamed Honey” won the short category, she was also the publisher of the long poem winner, C.S.E. Cooney’s “The Sea King’s Second Bride.”
I’d say “Congratulations to the following Mythic Delirium contributors who are winners…” but actually all the winners have appeared in Mythic Delirium over the years, heh.


/ December 12th, 2014 / No Comments »

Hungry Constellations coverWell, hey, here’s one of those rare and elusive poetry reviews one occasionally hears rumors of, spotted in the wild: Nameless Digest has published a very flattering review (by contributing editor Sunni Brock) of my new poetry collection Hungry Constellations:

Allen’s fiction ideas are very weird, and his poetry is weirder still. Wonderfully weird. … Classical themes combine with modern stylistic license in verses that defy the rules yet satisfy a timeless beauty. … It is rare to find genre poetry so artfully rendered. It is full of stars.

Let me once again thank Dominik Parisien for his efforts editing down 20 years of my work into something shiny. You can read the full review here.

Fun with Amazon, second UNSEAMING edition

/ December 5th, 2014 / No Comments »

As I’ve said, Amazon “bestseller” lists don’t mean much. That reiterated, Unseaming has so far been successful enough (by my standards) to afford me a fair amount of fun as it bobs up and down in the Kindle “Horror Short Stories” rankings.
This is by far my favorite screen capture from the entire affair:
And this one, which became possible when the paperback edition made a brief appearance on the list, is a close second:
And for sheer vanity’s sake, proof that the book actually broke into the top 10 in its category for about five minutes:
So suddenly I feel slightly less like a scribble in the margins. My thanks to all of you who’ve helped make that so. 😉

A new short story in A DARKE PHANTASTIQUE

/ December 4th, 2014 / No Comments »

My horror story “Tardigrade” is out in Jason V. Brock’s A Darke Phantastique anthology, which as a physical object is easily the most opulently baroque thing I’ve ever been in. I know this because my copy arrived today:
My Story
Other contributors: Joe R. Landsdale, Nancy Kilpatrick, S.T. Joshi, Greg Bear, William F. Nolan, Ray Garton, Melanie Tem, Dennis Etchison, Steve Rasnic Tem, Nicole Cushing, W. H. Pugmire, Gary A. Braunbeck and even more, with a forward by the late Ray Bradbury(!)

The Quiltmaker + 2014 eligibility post

/ December 3rd, 2014 / 2 Comments »

PROOFI suppose I should start with the obvious: my first ever short story collection Unseaming is new this year and eligible in “best story collection” categories. Someone saw fit to suggest it be included in this completely unofficial list, which still tickles me to no end.
Of the new works of fiction I’ve had come out this year, the one I’m proudest of is “The Quiltmaker,” my horror novella that also happens to be a sequel to my best known story, “The Button Bin.” Its length, its stylistic weirdness and its grim nastiness kept it from finding a home prior to appearing in my collection Unseaming, but now that Unseaming is out (and doing shockingly well by the standards set by my books, heh — my thanks to all of you who have promoted and purchased it!) “The Quiltmaker” has gotten some encouraging attention.
Not only that, but a long planned limited edition hardcover of “The Quiltmaker” is underway, forthcoming from the wonderful Erzebet YellowBoy’s Papaveria Press. The proofs are sitting on my bookshelf regarding me forlornly because they happened to arrive at the same time as three other ongoing projects — but please believe me when I say I am SO excited about this.
I should mention too that though I consider it the longest of long shots, “The Quiltmaker” is available free for SFWA members to read in the forum section for Nebula eligible novellas. (By the way, I’ve also uploaded copies to the forum of all the short stories published in Mythic Delirium in 2014; more about that in this post.)
I’ve also had six short stories published this year, which for me is some sort of record. All are horror/dark fantasy/weird/whatever:

  • The Lead Between the Panes,” first appeared in Lakeside Circus, reprinted in Unseaming
  • “Monster,” first appeared in Nameless, reprinted in Unseaming
  • “Gutter,” first appeared in Unseaming
  • “Condolences,” first appeared in Unseaming
  • The Vintage Dress,” written especially for my employer, The Roanoke Times
  • “Tardigrade,” written especially for Jason V. Brock’s anthology A Darke Phantastique
    Poems: Only had three new ones appear this year; two have ties to short stories of mine.

  • The Paper Boy” in Strange Horizons (“Gutter”)
  • “Dearly Beloved” in Postscripts to Darkness (“Twa Sisters,” “Still Life With Skull”)
  • “To Sail the Leaden Sky,” original to my new collection Hungry Constellations

    A new story sold, a new poem reviewed

    / December 2nd, 2014 / No Comments »

    drabblecastContinuing my gradual catch-up between projects (more on what those projects are in future entries):
    I’ve sold a new short story, a sweetly nasty tongue-in-grotesque-cheek little short called “Tick Flick.” It’s kind of horror, kind of sci-fi, kind of within the margins of “the weird,” a bit of a black comedy, but mostly it’s gross, except that it’s also sort of touching. The Drabblecast has offered to publish it in print and audio, my first sale there.
    Funny story behind this: I originally completed this story (an idea that’s been with me for a couple years) for a specific market, which turned it down. Later, I composed a tweet about “pondering where to send a short, weirdly sweet yet spectacularly gross horror story” — but realized afterward that in fact that description did not match the story as written. It was only “spectacularly gross.” So I revised the tale to match the pitch. And lo! and behold, Nathaniel Lee with Drabblecast told me, “The shift into ‘Aww’ at the end saves this one for me, I think. I get enough gooey gory; it’s nice to have some good friends and empathy for a change.”
    A curious habit of mine is that characters in my first drafts are often extremely unsympathetic and have to be humanized in subsequent drafts. I suppose that effect was amplified in a story where the main characters are oversized, sentient ticks.
    cover-art-pstd5-final-for-printer-fonts-embedded-with-is-templateAnd speaking of bizarre characters in even stranger settings, my poem “Dearly Beloved,” which appeared earlier this year in Postscripts to Darkness, got a nice writeup in a review of the issue at Just a Cup of the Good Stuff:

    Inspired by Italian painter Alessandro Bavari’s series of grotesqueries, “Sodom and Gomorrah”, Allen cultivates a chilling series of images, of people willingly and happily transmogrified. In this poem, they have gathered in rapture and celebration, dancing and warping their forms even further, revealing non-static bodies, while they wait with bated breath to see what greater forms may be birthed before their very eyes. It is interesting and logical that, in describing these new forms, Allen makes generous use of gender neutral pronouns, reminding us that we can’t force our own labels on such an obscure world. It is a world that Allen has worked with before, in his “Twa Sisters” and “Still Life with Skull”, so it will be interesting to see just how these works could flesh out this surreal poem even more.

    Funny side note: Postscripts to Darkness poetry editor Dominik Parisien and I both had the same reaction at the same time — “Wow! A review that mentioned the poetry!”

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