[Mythic Delirium News] DARK BREAKERS made the LOCUS list. We celebrate with an e-book special.

/ February 1st, 2023 / No Comments »

Here at Mythic Delirium, we were delighted to learn that C. S. E. Cooney’s glorious collection Dark Breakers, a delightful blend of Gilded Age glitz, eldritch parallel worlds and majestic sorcery, has landed on the newest Locus Magazine Recommended Reading List in the Best Collection category.

Congratulations to Claire Cooney! (Her novel Saint Death’s Daughter also made the list.)

This wonderful news arrives exactly a week before we launch Cooney’s newest novel, The Twice-Drowned Saint, into the world.

And yet, a curious book-ending effect is at hand, as before The Twice-Drowned Saint was a standalone novel, it was the first long-form story in our anthology A Sinister Quartet; nearly a year to the day before the February 2022 release of Dark Breakers, Locus Magazine announced the inclusion of The Twice-Drowned Saint on its Recommended Reading List looking back on 2020, this time in the category of Best First Novel. (The story was originally intended as a novella, but “the tale grew in the telling,” as J.R.R. Tolkien famously wrote about The Lord of the Rings.)

So clearly, we had to mark this occasion in some fashion. Here’s what we came up with on short notice. From now through the official Feb. 7 debut date of The Twice-Drowned Saint, and likely for several days after; we’re offering a two-for-one e-book deal: pay half-price (($7 + $6)/2=$7.50) and get both, in the format of your choice, delivered to your inbox.

Dark Breakers & The Twice-Drowned Saint

Two e-books at one low price

Click here to buy!

Furthermore, if you have already purchased one book or the other but still want to take advantage of the deal, pay $7.50 and e-mail mythicdelirum[at]gmail[dot]com to tell us what other e-book of ours you want as a substitute.

Let’s get this party started.

Cross-posted from Mythic Delirium

[Mythic Delirium News] Preview reading and pre-order promotion for THE COLLECTED ENCHANTMENTS and THE TWICE-DROWNED SAINT

/ January 17th, 2023 / No Comments »

Next month (at Boskone!) Mythic Delirium Books will launch career-defining story collection The Collected Enchantments from Theodora Goss and mind-blowing novel The Twice-Drowned Saint from C.S.E. Cooney. And we note: if you can’t make it to Boston the weekend after Valentine’s Day, pre-order links are live for both The Twice-Drowned Saint and The Collected Enchantments.

Not to mention, if you can’t make it to the Boskone reading in person, we’re having a virtual one! It takes place Saturday, Jan. 21, at 7 p.m. EST. Assistant editor Sydney Macias will be joining me as co-host, Claire Cooney and Dora Goss will read from their books, artist Paula Arwen Owen of Arwen Designs, who created the interior illustrations for Collected Enchantments, will speak about her unique process, and we may have more guests to add before the show starts.

IMPORTANT: To attend the reading, you must pre-register through EventBrite. Click on the graphic below to go to the EventBrite page.

To attend this event, you must pre-register at the EventBrite page. Click on the banner to go there.

2022: A writing year in images

/ January 16th, 2023 / No Comments »

By far the biggest change to my career as a writer this past year was my departure from The Roanoke Times after 24 years, to start a new career at Virginia Tech as a media relations officer working in the university’s central communications and marketing office. I’ve often joked that working for the newspaper was “my only adult job.” Now, at 53, I’ve started a second one.

I started in 1998 as an editorial assistant, became a part-time night cops reporter, then a full-time beat reporter. I first had a county news beat; then I became the reporter who covered court cases and legal issues. In 2009, I became the paper’s arts columnist, which was something of a dream job, the sort of position I knew was becoming extremely rare in U.S. print journalism. I was paid an hourly wage to visit museum exhibitions and theater rehearsals, then go back to the office and write about them — I got to do that for more than a decade.

I continued to be the arts columnists as the company’s accelerating issues with staffing (and yes, the newspaper industry is increasingly obsolete, but I blame a series of terrible decisions by corporate owners for making these problems much worse than they had to be) resulted in county beats being added back to my roster of duties. Not comfortable with that mix, I landed the job of editorial page editor when that came open — something I had never imagined trying for when I joined The Roanoke Times all those years ago.

The experiences I had as editorial page editor were incredibly valuable, but given that the labor I was performing used to be handled by a department of five, this turned out to be like flopping from the cooking pot into the coals. Any lingering doubts I might have entertained about making the leap into higher education got squashed when I learned that Lee Enterprises, the Roanoke Times’ current owner, would have eliminated my job this past Friday the 13th had I still been in it. Whew!

To the left is the final editorial I wrote for The Roanoke Times, the last of thousands upon thousands of briefs, breaking news, feature stories, columns, editorials and more that I wrote as a newspaper employee.

Yet I am not done with local journalism. Below is an arts story I wrote for web-only nonprofit Cardinal News, my first ever nonfiction article written as a freelance reporter.

So yeah, that’s big.

Made-up-story-wise, my year was surprisingly productive given everything that was happening day-job wise. I had four original stories published (all in print-only publications!) and one really important reprint. Not bad for a year that had so much going on, and one that — I realized a few months in — marked my 30th anniversary as a published writer of fiction, a thing that I found a way to celebrate!

Those stories were: surreal fantasy “Falling Is What It Loves” in Not One of Us

Two new horror stories (a first!), “Abhors” and “This Rider of Fugitive Dawns,” in the anthology Pluto in Furs 2

Another horror tale, one that got a delightfully enthusiastic reader reaction, “Matres Lachrymarum” in Cosmic Horror Monthly

And last but hardly least, the late horormeister Joe Pulver’s anthology The Leaves of a Necronomicon at least became available, containing my story “The Sun Saw,” the first story in which (at least in chronological order of when they were written) my troubled, disturbed sorcerer John Hairston appears. (“The Sun Saw” was written for Leaves, but ended up appearing first in my Shirley Jackson nominated 2020 collection Aftermath of an Industrial Accident.)

Poetry-wise, it was an honor to have my poems “Astynome, After” and “Dispelling the Arcana” nominated for the Rhysling Awards. I did not win, but the poems were reprinted in a beautiful paperback. Nothing much else happened until an unexpected opportunity resulted in a brand-spanking new villanelle of mine, one of my rare NON-speculative works, called “Fireworks,” appearing in The Roanoke Rambler during the final week of December. My thanks to editor Henri Gendreau for reaching out to me. I was especially delighted to see a bit of new fiction, “Learn to Fly,” from my fellow Roanoker and Sinister Quartet alum Amanda J. McGee, turn up in the same issue!

I think that sums it up. There’s perhaps more I could write, but this will do.

New fiction at Mythic Delirium! Novelette “Longergreen” from DARK BREAKERS by C. S. E. Cooney now free to read [award eligibility post]

/ December 21st, 2022 / No Comments »

You could call this our award eligibility post redux: once again, we are making an original work from C. S. E. Cooney’s Gilded Era secondary world fantasy collection Dark Breakers free to read on our site. This time, it’s her beautiful, haunting novelette “Longergreen.”

Though it stands on its own, you could view “Longergreen” as an extended final movement to a symphony that begins with her novella “The Two Paupers,” also included in Dark Breakers. As the editor of Dark Breakers, I deeply admired the shift in tone, the blend of joy and sorrow, that grew out of the characters’ wizened perspectives.

Whether you are seeking material to consider for award nominations or looking for a moving, affecting read, “Longergreen” is for you.



For SFWA members, all the original stories from Dark Breakers are available in the Nebula Award forums. Links below:

2022 Mythic Delirium award eligibility recap

collection: Dark Breakers by C.S.E. Cooney



Salissay’s Laundries


(read for free on Mythic Delirium site)


(download copy in SFWA forum, membership/login required)





(read for free on Mythic Delirium site)


(download copy in SFWA forum, membership/login required)

Short story


“Susurra to the Moon”


(download copy in SFWA forum, membership/login required)


Cross-posted from Mythic Delirium

Mythic Delirium News: LIKE SMOKE, LIKE LIGHT, Yukimi Ogawa’s debut collection, coming June 2023

/ December 20th, 2022 / No Comments »

As I mentioned in the double cover reveal for Theodora Goss’s The Collected Enchantments and C. S. E. Cooney’s The Twice-Drowned Saint, Mythic Delirium Books plans to rev up with flourishes in 2023, our 25th anniversary year.

Here’s another aspect of those efforts that I am incredibly proud to share: it pleases me greatly to announce the acquisition of Yukimi Ogawa’s debut collection of short fiction, Like Smoke, Like Light: Stories.

Here’s text from a press release about Yukimi’s amazing book:

In this debut collection of breath-taking, genre-blending short stories, Yukimi Ogawa explores realms of folklore and fantastic new worlds. Within these moving, imagination-stretching tales, the dawn of history, the travails of the present and the outer reaches of space and time are all home to creatures of fantasy and of Japanese legends, who intermingle with their environments in surprising and delightful ways. In a series of connected stories, a once-hidden island admits tourists from the outside world to meet inhabitants colored like jewels and cognizant of extrasensory patterns. Most importantly, all of these dense, rich and complex interstitial stories focus on relationships and family, creating a feast for both the mind and the heart.

“At pure surface level, these works appear rooted in the fantastical and magical, but as soon as you think you’ve found your footing and understand where you are, Ogawa warps your perception almost imperceptibly until the world is completely unfamiliar again. In Yukimi Ogawa, we’ve gained a unique voice and a singular interpreter of the speculative in our ranks. She challenges deeply held attitudes and preconceptions about what’s possible regarding structure, tone, and genre itself.” — Tor.com

Here’s the table of contents as it currently stands:

  • Like Smoke, Like Light
  • Perfect
  • Welcome to the Haunted House
  • The Colorless Thief
  • The Flying Head at the Edge of Night
  • In Her Head, in Her Eyes
  • Town’s End
  • Taste of Opal
  • Hundred Eye
  • Grayer Than Lead, Heavier Than Snow
  • Rib
  • The Shroud for the Mourners
  • Blue Grey Blue
  • Ripen
  • Ever Changing, Ever Turning
  • Nini
  • The Tree, and the Center of the World
  • Author bio:

    Yukimi Ogawa lives in a small town in Tokyo where she writes in English but never speaks the language. She still wonders why it works that way. Her fiction can be found in such places as Clarkesworld, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Strange Horizons. In 2021, she was finally translated into Japanese.

    The sharp-eyed might well have noticed that the announcement of Ogawa’s collection appeared in Publishers Weekly before it appeared on the Mythic Delirium site, a testament to how challenging this past year has been for us.

    Publishers Weekly announcement of LIKE SMOKE, LIKE LIGHT by Yukimi Ogawa

    Anita and I really excited about moving forward with this project. There’s going to be even more news to share about Yukimi’s book, and other projects, in the new year!

    Cross-posted from Mythic Delirium

    In prep for 25th anniversary of Mythic Delirium, double cover reveals and pre-order links: THE COLLECTED ENCHANTMENTS by Theodora Goss and THE TWICE-DROWNED SAINT by C.S.E. Cooney

    / December 19th, 2022 / No Comments »

    Not being someone who keeps close tabs on periodic landmarks in my personal life, it came as a bit of a shock when I realized that next year will mark the 25th anniversary of the existence of Mythic Delirium. This quarter century incorporates all of the gradually evolving phases of Mythic Delirium, from its beginnings as a tiny but mighty twice-yearly poetry zine (which, I’m still proud to say, was ultimately honored with a World Fantasy Award nomination) to its current status as a tiny but mighty publisher of books, ha ha!

    For multiple reasons, these past couple of years have been especially challenging for Mythic Delirium, but we hope to come back with an epic flourish in the new year, and this announcement provides proof. In February 2023, we’ll be releasing two gorgeous books by authors whom we have wonderful creative partnerships with, C. S. E. Cooney and Theodora Goss. They and we will be in Boston for Boskone to premiere these treasures in person.

    Feast your eyes on these spectacular covers that exquisitely embody the words these pages contain.

    Cover art by Lasse Paldanius

    Claire Cooney’s phantasmagorical novel The Twice-Drowned Saint first appeared, in slightly different form, in our 2020 anthology A Sinister Quartet, and generated a lot of buzz. We’re re-releasing this wildly imaginative gem as a standalone novel, fully illustrated outside and in by Lasse Paldanius, whose dreamlike cover art gathers the key characters and their destinies in the story symbolically together.

    The black-and-white interior illustrations build tension to C. S. E. Cooney’s rich storytelling by providing mystical glimpses to the story’s key elements or scenes. Combining figurative, abstract and symbolic expression, not only do Lasse’s drawings illustrate, but also offer enjoyable visual riddles to the reader. You can solve the visual codes by reading the story.

    Available Feb. 7 in trade paperback and e-book editions.

    Pre-order The Twice-Drowned Saint

    Trade Paperback: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon FR | Amazon DE | Amazon AU | Bookshop

    Ebook: Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon FR | Amazon DE
    Amazon AU | Nook | iBooks | Kobo | Google Play


    Cover art by Catrin Welz-Stein

    Cover art by Catrin Welz-Stein

    This huge gathering of 24 stories and 49 poems spans the length of Theodora Goss’s enchanting career, putting the best of her poetic and moving adventures in magic and her graceful re-imaginings of fairy tales and folklore all in one volume. The Collected Enchantments combines selections from her award-nominated and award-winning collections In the Forest of Forgetting, Songs for Ophelia and Snow White Learns Witchcraft with previously uncollected and all-new creations. This beautiful cover piece from Catrin Welz-Stein perfectly matches the otherworldly yet historically grounded mood and tone that Goss evokes, while interior illustrations by frequent Mythic Delirium collaborator Paula Arwen Owen further emphasize the potent blending of nature, sorcery and storytelling.

    Available Feb. 14 in hardcover, trade paperback and e-book editions.

    Pre-order The Collected Enchantments

    Hardcover: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon FR
    Amazon DE | Amazon AU | Bookshop

    Trade Paperback: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon FR
    Amazon DE | Amazon AU | Bookshop

    Ebook: Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon FR | Amazon DE
    Amazon AU | Nook | iBooks | Kobo | Google Play


    More art from The Twice-Drowned Saint


    More art from The Collected Enchantments

    More news to come soon!

    Cross-posted from Mythic Delirium

    Mythic Delirium News: “Salissay’s Laundries,” a novella from DARK BREAKERS by C. S. E. Cooney, free to read [Award eligibility post]

    / December 13th, 2022 / No Comments »

    The time of year has once again come around to remind folks of the original publications produced by Mythic Delirium Books, and in 2022 that’s a simple task. (It’s also, you know, a great excuse to remind people to check out a terrific, thought-provoking read, in case they missed it, or to revisit a terrific, thought-provoking read, in case they didn’t.)

    This past February we debuted C. S. E. Cooney’s fantastic story collection Dark Breakers, brimming with five luscious tales set in a milieu wherein the world of humans, the world of the gentry (think of the fae in their most powerful, dangerous incarnations) and the world of the goblins all co-exist in the same space, separated by supposedly impermeable magical veils. Naturally, these veils get permeated in the course of these gorgeous, at times eerie, at times romantic, at times heart-moving stories. The debut included a reading and dealer room hand sales at Boskone, our first in-person events as a press since the arrival of COVID-19.

    As we’ve noted before, Dark Breakers contains a number of Easter eggs that will be appreciated by fans of her World Fantasy Award-winning debut collection Bone Swans.

    Dark Breakers was the only book we released this past year. Of Cooney’s five stories, three are original to the collection, and one of those, the novella “Salissay’s Laundries,” we’ve shared free on our site for all to read.

    Salissay’s Laundries

    For SFWA members, we’ve also shared the stories in the Nebula Award forums. Links to everything below:


    Salissay’s Laundries

    (read for free on Mythic Delirium site)

    (download copy in SFWA forum, membership/login required)



    (download copy in SFWA forum, membership/login required)

    Short story

    “Susurra to the Moon”

    (download copy in SFWA forum, membership/login required)

    We want to play a few extra congratulatory notes for Claire Cooney, because Ellen Datlow selected “Salissay’s Laundries” for her longlist of honorable mentions in the run-up to the most recent installment, Volume 14, of her Best Horror of the Year anthology series.

    As with The Twice-Drowned Saint, Claire’s short novel included in our anthology A Sinister Quartet, we don’t think Cooney precisely intended “Salissay’s Laundries” to be a horror tale, but some unnerving events to occur, and it is great to see that acknowledged in such a prestigious way.

    Cross-posted from Mythic Delirium Books

    30th Anniversary Celebration Interview and Sale: Part Final

    / September 30th, 2022 / No Comments »

    Six dark fantasy and horror titles
    discounted to 99¢
    for an early Halloween start

    See a map of how my stories and upcoming novel connect

    Read the beginning of my 30th anniversary interview

    Read the second part of the interview

    Read part three

    Reflecting on your published works, what pieces are you most proud of? What pieces do you still think about reworking?

    It’s hard to pick favorites: so many of these pieces represent some sort of milestone, little or huge, at least to me.

    An obvious choice is “The Button Bin,” which remains, fifteen years after Lawrence Watt-Evans first picked it for publication in Helix, the story of mine that has caused the biggest stir. Any time a creepy image involving buttons starts making the rounds, I’m going to get tagged, it’s inevitable. (It had not occurred to me until typing this paragraph just now that the “The Button Bin” came out right at the midpoint of these thirty years — fascinating!)

    Inspired by “The Spider Tapestries”

    Another story that came out in 2007, a fateful year for me, was “The Hiker’s Tale,” which served as the seed that grew into my dark fantasy novel Trail of Shadows, which Broken Eye Books plans to unleash next year. Both of those stories took a long time to gestate, and both have generated multiple sequels, prequels and spin-offs. (As the map shows!)

    I’d be remiss if I did not take a moment to plug “The Sun Saw,” which in July at last became available in the anthology wherein it was intended to debut, The Leaves of a Necronomicon, edited by the late, great Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. The publisher, Chaosium, generously let me use the story in my Aftermath of an Industrial Accident collection in 2020. There’s a character in “Sun Saw,” John Hairston, who has seen a lot of action in other stories since I first thought him up.

    Regarding reworking, any story can benefit from further tweaking. In the run-up the publication of Unseaming, Thomas Ligotti himself advised me to use the republication of stories in a collection as an opportunity to further refine them. All of them.

    If there’s project I’d love to have another go at, its my debut novel, The Black Fire Concerto, which came out in 2013. Not because I would want to make major changes to it — some more polish would not hurt, but my heroines, my villains and villainesses, my ravening ghouls, my surreal settings, my gory set pieces, my loopy over-the-top magic feats, all embody what I was aiming for, a kind of madcap zombie-fic tribute to the likes of Michael Moorcock and Roger Zelazny.

    But I had plans for the book to be the start of a four-book series. (In fact, the second book, The Ghoulmaker’s Aria, exists as a complete first draft, and I know the titles of books three and four.) However, the publishing imprint that brought out Black Fire Concerto folded almost as soon as it opened and my novel shot so deep under the radar sales-wise that I concluded that I could not justify the time investment it would have taken to complete the series. What’s heartbreaking is that Black Fire does have a few fans who still ask me from time to time about the next installment. I dream of someday having a window of free time to complete the series and mount a proper large-scale re-launch.

    Inspired by “The Spider Tapestries”

    Speaking of reworking, does your process differ from the start of a project versus how you edit completed drafts?

    In my experience every piece demands a different process; there is no One Right Way. Given that, I’m going to answer this question more generally.

    The single most important step in writing any work of fiction — though it applies to all types of writing, but I feel its especially important to stress this with novels and stories: finish the first draft. Get to the end. Do whatever you have to do to make that happen. You will never see your work in print if you never finish it.

    A technique that I co-opted and swear by is the “three-sentence rule,” because “a thousand words a day” is out of reach for many of us who write as a side hustle. The “three-sentence rule” is simple: no matter how tired or busy you are, you can always add three sentences to a work in progress. Some days that is all you will manage. Some days you’ll catch fire and write a lot more.

    Once you have that complete draft, that is your clay. You can take however long you want to shape it however you like. Feedback from a few trusted beta readers who you can handle criticism from can be a huge help. Once again, you have to walk that balance beam, staying true to your vision while recognizing that the jewel in your head might on the page still be a lumpy rock.

    Inspired by “The Spider Tapestries”

    Since I’ve gone into armchair vizier mode here, I want to add, for whomever might see this; if you decide to write a novel, you would benefit from doing research into how the various processes for seeing a novel through into print work in current times — before you start, even. There’s nothing like spending two years on a project and then learning that all your assumptions about how the business works — assumptions that you based major creative choices on — are wrong.

    If you had to pick a central theme or style throughout your work, what might that be?

    I’m most comfortable not sticking to a single style. “The Button Bin” drew some gripes because I wrote it in second-person present tense, which for some readers is apparently equivalent to having a suit put on inside out and backwards. “Let There Be Darkness” (collected in Unseaming) is written in future tense. “The Cruelest Team Will Win” (collected in Aftermath) gets told in straightforward first person colloquial voice. I have high fantasy stories, science fiction stories, gritty noir stories, subtle stories, extreme stories. Whatever the performance requires.

    I’m definitely drawn to the dark and disturbing, though, whatever style I happen to be working in. I suppose that was true with my poetry as well, though it emerged in smaller doses. I mean, I didn’t think of my poetry entirely in those terms, as I definitely produced verse I thought were light, but look at how Amal El-Mohtar chose to describe my poetry in her introduction to Hungry Constellations:

    “Let me tell you about Mike Allen’s poetry. This is a man who delights in breaking bodies: butchering, splitting, flaying, dismembering, then seeding landscapes with viscera until they too become bodies—bodies invaded, bodies stuffed, bodies contaminated. This is a man who carves words into and out of bodies, be they skin or sapphire, corpses or constellations. But somehow Allen skirts gore and clinical detachment both: there is a precision and an economy to his horror that’s reminiscent of clockwork, architecture, astronomy. Imagine a clock with bone-gears, a skin-tree growing liver-fruit, a ship knifing a face into the moon, and you’ll have something of a sense of what lies before you.”

    Inspired by “The Spider Tapestries”

    Back in 2007, as part of a promotion for Weird Tales during the years when Ann VanderMeer was editor, I wrote an essay trying to explain “the Fascination of the Abomination,” which I am hardly the only author to exhibit:

    “It’s almost as if the author is acting on a spiritual dare: take the worst truth you can imagine, and I will show you that things can be far worse, that the core of your being is not equipped, can never be equipped to cope with the worst that’s out there, even the worst that’s inside you. And I will dare to entertain you, not so much by what I tell you, but how I tell it. (And this is how, perhaps, those of us who have the Fascination transmute it into something we can manage? I can’t really claim to know the answer.)”

    I believe that’s the game I am still playing.

    How did starting Mythic Delirium impact your personal writing career?

    My unexpected career as an editor and publisher helped me in the networking department, I suppose you could say, in that it had the unexpected side benefit of giving me reason to meet people I otherwise might not have.

    I guess as one example: when Mythic Delirium became part of the DNA Publications stable, that first issue under new management included a poem by Ian Watson, a prolific sf novelist from across the pond who was in a phase of his writing life where he was producing a lot of poems. My debut poetry chapbook, Defacing the Moon, also came out under the DNA banner about the same time, and Ian, on reading and liking it, pitched one of his own, which I ended up editing, The Lexicographer’s Love Song, and that led to us collaborating as writers on things like the kooky novelette “Dee-Dee and the Dumpy Dancers” that appeared in Interzone (collected in Ian’s Saving for a Sunny Day) and the poem “TimeFlood” that Gardner Dozois published in Asimov’s Science Fiction (collected in Hungry Constellations) and which I still think is one of the best and wildest pieces of writing with my name attached to it, period. Another example of collaborative work I’m super-proud of would be “The King of Cats, the Queen of Wolves” written with my friends Sonya Taaffe and Nicole Kornher-Stace, originally published by Apex Magazine when Catherynne M. Valente was editor, and also collected in Hungry Constellations.

    Inspired by “The Spider Tapestries”

    Many of the creative partnerships in my life began with Mythic Delirium or projects that started under or ended up under the Mythic Delirium Books umbrella. I told the story of Mythic Delirium in some detail in the editorial that introduced the final digital issue of the zine, and as Mythic Delirium as a venture turns 25 next year, I expect to share even more as I, while wearing my publisher hat, line a bunch of new book releases and projects up to celebrate that silver anniversary.

    What is your most recent publication? What are you currently working on?

    Not counting the latest piece written for my day job at the Roanoke Times (which as of this writing happens to be an editorial about the idiotic “Little Mermaid” movie controversy), my most recent publication would be my sci-fi horror story “Matres Lachrymarum” in the April issue of Cosmic Horror Monthly. I have to say, the folks behind this magazine are doing something right, because I got a pretty big positive public response from that story, or at least what counts as one on the scale I work in.

    “Matres” is a sort of sequel to “Drift from the Windrows,” a story I wrote for Broken Eye Books’ Tomorrow’s Cthulhu anthology that has since been included in my Aftermath collection. Invites to play in H.P. Lovecraft’s universe are fun; I prefer not to name-drop all his made up monsters and gods and instead let the reader infer what beings might be manifesting from the things my characters see and experience.

    I have drafted a couple of new stories that, once they see print, will add a couple more polygons to the story map. One is a Hierophant story, one is a Hairston tale.

    Inspired by “The Spider Tapestries”

    What I’m most excited about though is the release of my next novel, Trail of Shadows. I’m incredibly grateful to Broken Eye Books publisher Scott Gable for granting a home to this wayward monster of a book, which has been with me, evolving in fits and starts, for many years.

    Trail of Shadows grew from my short story “The Hiker’s Tale” (included in Unseaming) and its novelette sequel “Follow the Wounded One” (included in Aftermath of an Industrial Accident). To share a little secret, “The Cruelest Team Will Win” (also included in Aftermath) is actually a sequel to Trail of Shadows. “The Feather Stitch,” published last year in Lackington’s, connects the Trail of Shadows universe to my “Button Bin” stories, sewing it all together into one big scary “Allenverse,” so to speak. (You can see, on the map I made, how the strands connect.)

    The few and the proud who have followed my tales in all their scattershot appearances might not have been aware of it, but the narrative of Trail of Shadows has been an unseen source of gravity, in the manner that anomalies in a planet’s orbit ultimately reveal that there’s another unseen planet exerting force from further out in the void. I’m psyched beyond words that at last I’ll get to call this dark world into the light.

    Assuming I live long enough to add three more decades to my writing career, Trail of Shadows will be a great way to kick them off.


    Inspired by “The Button Bin” and “The Quiltmaker”

    Again, I want to thank Sydney Macias for the interview questions, and C. S. E. Cooney, Carlos Hernandez and Cassandra Khaw for these wonderful AI-generated imaginings of my worlds and monsters!


    30th Anniversary Celebration Interview and Sale: Part Three

    / September 25th, 2022 / No Comments »

    Six dark fantasy and horror titles
    discounted to 99¢
    for an early Halloween start

    See a map of how my stories and upcoming novel connect

    Read the beginning of my 30th anniversary interview

    Read the second part of the interview

    How did you rise to become the president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association? What was that experience like?

    I want to phrase this in a way that’s respectful of those who are no longer with us.

    I only became aware of the Science Fiction Poetry Association in 1998, the first time one of my poems was nominated for a Rhysling Award. The organization, though, had been around since 1978!

    In 2002, Anita and I and a whole contingent of people involved with DNA Publications traveled to Arisia in Boston. At that convention there was a meeting conducted for SFPA members. I had joined and was curious, but I found the meeting disappointing. I left with what I will call, tongue-in-cheek, a dangerous thought: “I could do this better myself.”

    Inspired by “Lilith,” antagonist from “The Cruelest Team Will Win” and Trail of Shadows

    To drill down a little into why I felt that way, what I had hoped for was to find an organization that advocated with vigor for this art form I had come to embrace, and that served as a center of gravity for an enthusiastic community. At that time, SFPA fulfilled neither function. (Others may disagree, but that was my takeaway.) At best, it managed the bare minimum needed to keep from dissolving, and once volunteering took me behind the scenes, I realized the organization hung on by threads.

    My bid for president resulted in the first contested election in the SFPA’s history. The group is approaching its 45th anniversary, so I guess you could say my time at the helm, only two years, was a short interval within SFPA’s lifespan. But it was intense. There are things that now I might wish I had done better, or differently, but perhaps most important in the first place, things got done.

    Some of the things I tried, like establishing a regular SFPA presence at Readercon in Boston, including an official Rhysling Award ceremony, ultimately fell by the wayside — but those ceremonies were glorious while they lasted. Some things that I tried and failed to do, like changing the organization’s name to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association, eventually happened without my involvement. Some things, I shouldn’t have been so pigheaded about, like the founding of the Dwarf Stars Award, a proposal I initially fought against, believing that adding award categories would detract from promoting what we already had. Some of the things I helped establish have evolved to a point where they present new problems: the annual Rhysling Anthologies, which collect all nominees for members to read before voting on the winners, went from DIY stapled-together zines to pretty print-on-demand paperbacks sold through online bookstores under my watch, but now the award gets so many nominees that SFPA is having to figure out how to prune back what goes in those books, because they’ve become impractical to print.

    Above all else, I wanted to project an image of an organization that was active, that was engaged, that was making things happen. I wanted potential newcomers (and disgruntled expats) to see what we were up to and want to be part of it.

    Inspired by “Lilith,” antagonist from “The Cruelest Team Will Win” and Trail of Shadows

    I worked with poet and editor Roger Dutcher to complete The Alchemy of Stars, an anthology collecting the first twenty-five-plus years of Rhysling Award winners — the book had been stuck in limbo. I worked with SFPA Founder Suzette Haden Elgin, a wonderful person who I still miss, to publish the Science Fiction Poetry Handbook, a treatise of sorts on how sf poetry can be written that she was offering as a fundraising tool to the association she started. I reached out to members who had dropped out and asked them to come back and I hard-sold the organization to prospective new members wherever I could within the resources I had at the time.

    In the end, though, backing away was the right thing to do. I made myself accept that I had made my investments and what happened next was up to others. From what I gather, in the years since, even during rough patches, SFPA has never come close to backsliding to the state it was in when that “dangerous notion” took hold of me.

    Perhaps one amusing measure of my success could be the awkwardness those efforts sometimes cause me to this day, now that I’m no longer writing much poetry or sticking my nose into Poetryland affairs, because people who encountered that man on a mission remember him vividly and presume he and I are still the same person. At one time I really was at the center of that intriguing world, where the audience might be small but the artists are often up to really interesting, even mind-stretching things; but now people come to me for advice on, for example, a press to pitch a poetry collection to, and I can only shrug: I have no idea!

    One thing I hope more speculative poets will take to heart is that publicly complaining about a lack of respect will never draw that respect. Instead, make the case for why speculative poetry deserves interest, even admiration. Share a poem you wrote, or one you like that someone else wrote, and let listeners hear why those words challenge and delight. That tactic always worked for me.

    What genres/forms do you find yourself most comfortable in now?

    I’m not comfortable sticking to any one genre, really, though most everything I write ends up having some sort of dark element or twist.

    Inspired by “Lilith,” the antagonist from “The Cruelest Team Will Win” and Trail of Shadows

    When he wrote the introduction to Aftermath of an Industrial Accident, the amazing Punktown author Jeffrey Thomas perceptively nailed my joy and my curse: “Many writers endeavor to establish a certain style or voice or tone, to clear a small but distinct plot of ground they can build within, so as to create a kind of brand that inspires recognition in a reader … But those writers who do as Mike does have a special place in my heart. And what Mike does, as I say, is just about everything. In these pages you will encounter straight up horror. Experimental horror. High fantasy. Science fiction. Poetry. The consistency, here, is simply excellence.”

    Maybe I would be better off if I stayed in one lane and reworked similar themes and techniques over and over, but it’s just not how I roll. Obviously, I take a lot of pride in my work, but I’ve little interest in limiting myself to producing cookie cutter-styled stories for the sake of “brand-building.” (That’s not to say it’s innately a bad thing — if the muse entices you to build a brand, more power to you!)

    In terms of forms, I am absolutely much more focused on fiction these days, to the degree that I can set aside any time to focus on creative writing.

    As a poet I wrote a number of series: there was the “Disturbing Muses” series of ekphrastic poems based on the lives and works of 20th century artists, there were series that riffed on my “Petting the Time Shark” and “Defacing the Moon” poems from early on in my poetry-writing career, a trilogy of “Midnight Rendezvous” poems, a lot of concrete poems that, really, were inspired by the Alfred Bester-esque way Harlan Ellison played with text on the page in some of his stories. My poem “Phase Shift,” which is half upside down, is a direct reaction to “Theory of Tension” from Mind Fields, Ellison’s collaboration with artist Jacek Yerka.

    My friend and colleague Nicole Kornher-Stace once challenged me to write stories the way I wrote poetry, and the result was “Twa Sisters” (collected in The Spider Tapestries) an ekphrastic short story full of concrete poetry tricks like two or three vertical columns on a page indicating simultaneous actions from multiple points of view. I’m really proud of that story — Nicole’s point generally though was that I was demonstrating a fluidity with poetry that wasn’t always evident in my prose. Now it’s skewed the other way.

    Inspired by “the Mothers” from “Drift from the Windrows” and “Matres Lachrymarum”

    And I’m creating several series of short stories — I don’t always plan installments in advance, but more and more of my tales are connecting as I spy opportunities to tie together unexpected threads. There’s a map I made that shows how all the published pieces (or in the case of my novel Trail of Shadows, soon-to-be-published pieces) connect.

    I don’t think at the moment I have the discipline (or the spare time!) to generate the tons and tons of background notes involved in world building, but a sort of world building is happening nonetheless, the way globs of quicksilver randomly clump together to form an advanced model of Terminator.

    How does your work as an editor differ from what you like to write? Do you think there are reasons for those differences?

    It amazes me still: My tastes when selecting poetry and fiction to include in projects like Clockwork Phoenix and Mythic Delirium run in distinctly different directions from the subject matter I choose to tackle as a writer.

    This might seem a little dotty, but I genuinely believe that the name I picked for the publishing portion of my side hustle, Mythic Delirium, had some effect on how my preferences as an editor grew. I brainstormed the name while I was still a student at Virginia Tech, and at that age I thought of it as both a term that suggested a wide tent under which all sorts of surprising genre combinations might reside, and as an excuse to create a cool logo to adorn a magazine cover. (Prime example, the logo that artist Tim Mullins came up with in 2000 and refined in 2009, and that we still use, even though the zine closed in 2018.) Shepherding a publication with the word “mythic” in the title steered us in a direction of mythic content, I am sure of it.

    I didn’t daydream of editing as a youth and the notion that this was something I had a talent for never occurred to me until I tried it and didn’t fall flat on my face. (The story behind that first anthology I put out in 1995, New Dominions: Fantasy Stories by Virginia Writers, is a wild one, and too complicated to go into for this occasion. I did talk about it in the interview I gave Locus in 2017, if you’re super-curious.) As a result, I think it’s fair to claim that my skills and interests as an editor evolved as their own separate thing, independent of my interests as a writer, which are more closely related to my formative interests as a casual reader.

    Inspired by “the Mothers” from “Drift from the Windrows” and “Matres Lachrymarum”

    The way I read as an editor is rather unlike how I read for fun. (Of course, what I find fun isn’t particularly typical, either.) I want as an editor to be genuinely surprised, to finish a piece feeling that I have never ever read anything quite like that before. The title I came up with for the anthology series I’m most associated with, Clockwork Phoenix, is meant to evoke unclassifiability and even impossibility, a creature of a nature so contradictory it cannot exist, yet somehow on the page it does.

    Thus, as a writer, I gravitate toward generating my own personal versions/visions of The Books of Blood, Angry Candy or Grimscribe: His Lives and Works — but as an editor, an occupation that sprouts from a different era of my creative life, I want the poetic, the mind-bending, the beautiful, the genre-blending, and though I won’t shy away from darkness I also snatch up helpings of the joyful and the just plain (or very not plain) strange, because I want to shape a well-balanced experience, thought-provoking, exuberant.

    As a writer, I want to tip readers into the abyss. At least most of the time.

    On to the end of the interview


    30th Anniversary Celebration Interview and Sale: Part Two

    / September 23rd, 2022 / No Comments »

    Six dark fantasy and horror titles
    discounted to 99¢
    for an early Halloween start

    See a map of how my stories and upcoming novel connect

    Read the beginning of my 30th anniversary interview

    How do you feel about the way your poetry was distributed versus your prose?

    Humans plan, gods chuckle. In this particular channel, the way this principle applied had to do with how I imagined my career would go vs. how it really went down. I had an early burst of short story sales, but my writing skills didn’t yet match my ambition, and further sales of stories came few and far between.

    Inspired by “Father,” the monster from “Let There Be Darkness”

    However, the poems I was writing at the same time started to find homes with greater and greater frequency, and that encouraged me to crank out even more poems. Ten years on, only a handful of my stories had seen print, but I’d had dozens of poems published, including years of repeated contributions to the respected small press journal Tales of the Unanticipated. Quite a few of those TOTU pieces were intensely experimental. I loved the freedom poetry gave me in that regard.

    2002 saw my earliest appearances in Strange Horizons. That’s also the year a quirky online outlet called EOTU Ezine published “Epochs in Exile: A Fantasy Trilogy,” a genre-blurring piece about aliens and dragons that I co-wrote with fellow Roanoke author Charles M. Saplak. The next year “Epochs” ended up winning my first Rhysling Award — tied for first place in the Science Fiction Poetry Association voting, in fact, with “Matlacihuatl’s Gift” by my longtime friend and colleague Sonya Taaffe.

    Not to mention, my poetry-only DIY zine Mythic Delirium had after a mere two issues been added to the DNA Publications stable of magazines, which meant it was suddenly a sister publication to the likes of Aboriginal SF, Absolute Magnitude and Weird Tales. Mythic Delirium did not get national newsstand distribution — boy, would that have been impractical — but large ads for it appeared in magazines that did!

    Inspired by “Father,” the monster from “Let There Be Darkness”

    I noticed people in the speculative fiction field referring to me as a poet, and even discussing my work on occasion. It was never my intention to only be a poet, but I think it was only natural that I leaned into what was working.

    Growing up in Appalachia, making those solo reading explorations absent any interaction with sf fandom, I got the impression that poetry and fiction walked hand in hand in the speculative field. Reading essays about J.R.R. Tolkien led me to T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” — not to mention, Tolkien himself published a poetry collection. Poetry appeared (and still appears!) regularly in Asimov’s Science Fiction, to which I subscribed as a teen.

    It wasn’t until I started interacting with a much broader swath of the genre community that I met fans, authors and even editors who reacted to discussions of “science fiction poetry” the way those comically wrong characters in the Reese’s Cup commercials exclaim in horror at the thought of blending peanut butter and chocolate. Really, it was one rude awakening among many — the belief I had that people who enjoyed such inspirational, aspirational literature would embody those qualities themselves, that bubble got popped over and over again; I mean, many definitely do, but hardly all. More specifically, much closer to the heart and art, I often found myself having to defend my choice to write the kind of poetry I did after years of just presuming most all genre authors wrote the stuff. This played a large hand in my volunteer work for the Science Fiction Poetry Association; there’s an upcoming question about that, so I’ll save further elaboration for then.

    Inspired by “Father,” the monster from “Let There Be Darkness”

    Let me skip ahead and say that I think nowadays the field is even more filled with writers who tackle novel series and 14-line poems with the same enthusiasm and editors who appreciate writing as a creative expression that takes many equally valid forms.

    I never stopped trying my hand at fiction, and I think one of the interesting ironies involved in accomplishing something with poetry that approximated “success” is that I had to accept I was pouring my best creative energy into a show that would always have a small audience. I didn’t stop writing, editing and publishing poetry, but I pushed harder at fiction editing and fiction writing.

    Nothing came easily. I wouldn’t say anything happened along the lines of a breakthrough — but more of my stories found homes, and one of them, my 2007 horror tale “The Button Bin,” made the Nebula Award shortlist. Honestly, being a Nebula finalist didn’t throw any doors wide open for me, but I got first hand experience at playing to a much larger audience, and that at least encouraged me to keep going.

    By 2012 a number of events professional and personal had conspired to dull my interest in both the genre poetry scene and the writing of poetry. I wrote a poem called “Hungry Constellations” that I intended essentially as my swan song to that phase of my writing life; it was kind of every theme I had ever tackled, wrapped up into one. That became the title poem of my final large-scale poetry collection, so far the only one that you can buy in an e-edition (and part of the 30th Anniversary Sale!). Dominik Parisien edited Hungry Constellations and did a great job assembling an overview of the wild stuff I got up to as a poet.

    Inspired by the “button people” from “The Button Bin” and “The Quiltmaker”

    A couple years after that, the relative obscurity of my short fiction paid off on a scale I never would or could have believed, as a new slew of readers “discovered” me even though I’d been around for nearly a quarter century.

    Right book, right cover, right endorsements, right timing: my debut horror collection Unseaming (which kicks off with “The Button Bin”) sold thousands of copies, landed on the Shirley Jackson Award shortlist and strongly hinted to me what the way forward should be.

    (I suppose it’s worth noting here that since 1998 I’ve been employed as a newspaper journalist. I keep high walls of church and state separation between my side hustles and my day job. Because of that, folks who hear me talk about my years writing poetry and fiction wouldn’t necessarily know that my career as a journalist has all along been happening simultaneously; I’ve written thousands of news stories, feature stories, columns and editorials. Every once in a while the streams cross, but for the most part I make sure the twain don’t meet.)

    Nowadays, thirty years on, the poles have reversed. Most of my creative work that makes it into print is short fiction, with poems few and rare.

    Inspired by the “button people” from “The Button Bin” and “The Quiltmaker”

    Yet poetry hasn’t left the building. My most recent collection, Aftermath of an Industrial Accident (which I think of as the follow-up to Unseaming) mixed a few poems in with the stories. Aftermath kind of got obscured by the COVID-19 pandemic, so I feel like a lot of people aren’t aware of its existence — but it also landed on the 2020 Shirley Jackson Award shortlist, which completely bowled me over. It also made the Locus Magazine Recommended Reading List, a first for me as a writer after all this time.

    While Sonya Taaffe was poetry editor at The Deadlands, she reached out to me to see if I could come up with something, and for a brief time I found that headspace that I was working in back in the mid-to-late ’00s, when I wrote poems like “Picasso’s Rapture,” “The Strip Search,” “The Journey to Kailash” and “Machine Guns Loaded with Pomegranate Seeds.” The result was “Astynome, After.” So my poetry bug, though mostly dormant, still lives.

    At Readercon about four years ago, multiple Hugo nominee Yoon Ha Lee caught me in the hall and told me that my Weird sci-fi poem “Metarebellion” from back in 2002 had a huge impact on him when he read it. Needless to say, that disclosure meant quite a lot to me!

    On to Part Three


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