2016 postmortem and highlights reel

/ January 2nd, 2017 / No Comments »

Overall, 2016 was a pretty mixed year for us. We lost our dog, Loki, a sweet soul who’d been the cheerfully goofy center of our household since 2003. I had injury-related health issues that haven’t fully gone away and Anita had an unwelcome surprise on the employment front. Long-time friends of ours died too young.


On the other hand, it had some pretty amazing highlights. I shared a first place Virginia Press Association award for a photo-story package that bested an offering from The Washington Post. I managed to knock out about 98% percent of the incredibly complex obligations from the Clockwork Phoenix 5 Kickstarter despite a number of unplanned-for obstacles. Anita and I had some great adventures and got to spend time with folks we love and admire.


And the following things happened:


Frankly, I can’t think of any moment in my entire career as a publisher that compared to hearing Gordon Van Gelder announce Claire Cooney’s book as the World Fantasy Award judges’ choice for best collection of 2016.

Proud publishers bracket a World Fantasy Award-winning author! Me, C.S.E. Cooney and Anita after the World Fantasy Award ceremony in Columbus, Ohio. Photo by Amal El-Mohtar.

Proud publishers bracket a World Fantasy Award-winning author! Me, C.S.E. Cooney and Anita after the World Fantasy Award ceremony in Columbus, Ohio. Photo by Amal El-Mohtar.

I make no bones about Mythic Delirium Books essentially being a hobby — yet I take my duties as a publisher very seriously, and try to take each project as far as my own resources and the industry environment will allow. Anita and I take great pride in our track record, and publishing Bone Swans by C.S.E. Cooney was an experiment that had already exceeded expectations. As the award ceremony drew closer at what had already been a pretty darn wonderful World Fantasy Convention, Claire and I had conversations (at dinner, the evening before, and lunch, a couple hours prior to the announcements) about how Bone Swans had likely gone as far as it would go. We agreed, against its competitors, it was a dark horse candidate.


But of course I had my fingers crossed that Claire was going to win. Anita and I came hoping to see it happen, and we got our wish.


A not-so-distant second, in terms of exhilarating highlights, has to be the realization that dawned on me as the Clockwork Phoenix 5 launch reading geared up to start that we were going to be playing to a packed room. (For more objective confirmation, see the File 770 article about the reading(!); or photographer Melissa Beckman’s album on Facebook.)

The crowd gathering at Commons Café in Brooklyn for the Clockwork Phoenix 5 launch the evening of April 5.

I didn’t begin the CP5 Kickstarter with a plan to launch the anthology in New York. Credit for that goes totally to Jim Freund, host of radio show Hour of the Wolf and organizer of the New York Review of Science Fiction reading series, of which our launch became a part. We had seven contributors from the book there to read — Rob Cameron, Shveta Thakrar, Barbara Krasnoff, Sonya Taaffe, A.C. Wise, and C.S.E. Cooney and Carlos Hernandez — and an eighth to help sign books, as cover artist Paula Arwen Owen also made it! All the writers gave terrific readings, and much to my delight, the audience was totally down for the challenging, poetic experiences that Clockwork Phoenix stories provide.


(The level of unexpected triumph left me so discombobulated that not only did I forget to call the contributors present together for a post-reading group photo, but I left Brooklyn Commons without my cellphone, which had to be mailed to me in Roanoke.)


On a broader scale, Bone Swans became the second book I’ve shepherded to break 5,000 copies sold. (The first was my own debut short story collection Unseaming last year.) And, gratifyingly, Clockwork Phoenix 5 became the fourth book affiliated with me to surpass 2,000 copies sold. (The first in that quartet is Clockwork Phoenix: Tales of Beauty and Strangeness, strangely, steadily selling since 2008.) For the curious, BookBub promotions figure prominently in the most recent of those totals. Consider that statement an endorsement.



Can you spot Unseaming?

Speaking of Unseaming, a sharp-eyed colleague spied a copy on Guillermo Del Toro’s bookshelf. Not in person, mind you, but in a photograph published in At Home with Monsters, the catalog that accompanied an exhibition of Del Toro’s personal collection of monster-related art and artifacts at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Yeah, I was pretty happy about that…


On the writing side, I got to attend an incredibly useful retreat organized by Beneath Ceaseless Skies editor Scott Andrews. I enjoyed taste-testing what seemed like an infinite supply of craft beers with my fellow retreaters (Kris Dikeman, A.T. Greenblatt, Rajan Khanna, and Devin Poore) and, even more importantly, were it not for the chance to attack the rewrite of my novel Trail of Shadows without interruption, I wouldn’t be starting 2017 at the 46,500 word mark in said rewrite, my highest priority through the spring.


(And a special extra thanks to Scott, who loaned me a laptop after I meticulously packed my own and then, hilariously, forgot to put it in the car before driving up. Do you see a pattern here?)


More cool thing happened, but as a highlight list, this will certainly do. Time to armor up and get on with this new year’s doings. Anita and I won’t be coming to many cons this year, except for the big one, which we’re really excited about: Worldcon 75 in Helsinki.

My 2016 awards eligibility post

/ December 12th, 2016 / 1 Comment »

2016 was a strange year for me (and a stressful one, too, though in ways that have little bearing on this post). My output as a publisher was pretty spectacular by personal standards — my awards eligibility post for Mythic Delirium Books can be found here.

I also wrote, and am still writing, quite a bit, but in terms of new works from me that made it all the way to publication, there wasn’t all that much. No new poems at all this year. There were just three new stories that appeared, and they all made their entrances in January. Remember January?

This little Tweet I made way back then (also shared on Facebook, naturally) proved prophetic.

So, those three stories were:

  • Longsleeves,” published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies.
  • “Drift from the Windrows,” published in Tomorrow’s Cthulhu.
  • “Silent in Her Nest,” an original story included in The Spider Tapestries.
  • By the way, The Spider Tapestries, new this year, is my second collection, containing six bizarre sci-fi/fantasy reprints as well as the above-mentioned original. It became available for pre-order in January and emerged fully from the birth canal in March. It’s about half as long as Unseaming and ten times weirder, but not weird in the way that folks who like “The Weird” tend to like, which meant it didn’t achieve anywhere near the traction Unseaming did, though it earned kind evaluations from the likes of Nicole Kornher-Stace, Helen Marshall, Scott Nicolay, Jeffrey Thomas and A.C. Wise, and Publishers Weekly and Library Journal were pretty kind to it, too. It is, of course, eligible in “collection” categories, for the few awards that have such.

    Of the three short stories, “Longsleeves” has by far stirred up the most feedback. I joke that it’s my #killallmen story, though, actually, I’m not really joking. It’s also a companion piece to the first dark fantasy of mine to appear at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, “The Ivy-Smothered Palisade.”

    “Drift from the Windrows,” believe it or not only my second explicitly Lovecraftian story to see print (the first was “Her Acres of Pastoral Playground” in Cthulhu’s Reign, more on that below), tells the story of star-crossed lovers and how they become tangled in the affairs of a company named SanMorta that specializes in designing genetically-modified crops.

    “Silent in Her Nest” is connected in a kind of catty-corner way to “Her Acres of Pastoral Playground” — it’s told from the point of view of the type of creature that served as antagonist in the latter story. There’s also an invasion of the themes I explored in The Black Fire Concerto and “Longsleeves,” this time in a tremendously twisted science fantasy setting.

    Should any of these tidbits make you curious to read these pieces, and you can’t get your hands on the texts in the usual ways, feel free to give me a holler.

    “The Quiltmaker” and the Apex Magazine subscription drive

    / October 26th, 2016 / No Comments »

    In the Sudden Plot Twist department, I’m taking another pause from preparing for the World Fantasy Convention to share that:

    A) My 20,000-word horror novella “The Quiltmaker,” sequel to my Nebula Award-nominated monster story “The Button Bin” and centerpiece (more or less) of my Shirley Jackson Award-nominated collection Unseaming, is going to be reprinted by the fine folks at Apex Magazine. It will be a way to stitch scattered parts together, so to speak, as Apex shared the “The Button Bin” with unsuspecting readers back in 2011…

    B) The Apex gang is in the midst of a $10,000 subscription drive, and they’ve made the unlocking of “The Quiltmaker” (very desirable under these circumstances, not so desirable if you’re a character in the story fighting for survival) the reward for readers once the drive passes $1,000. Which is (ulp!) the very next goal on the list, and just one of many terrific perks, so please do check out what they have to offer, you won’t regret it.

    My schedule for the 2016 World Fantasy Convention

    / October 25th, 2016 / No Comments »

    BookCoverImageAnita and I will be at the World Fantasy Convention this weekend, primarily to cheer on C.S.E. Cooney, whose book from our imprint, Bone Swans: Stories, is up for the World Fantasy Award for Best Collection against some very stiff competition. Our fingers are crossed regardless.

    Before Sunday’s ceremony, we’ll have plenty of time to hang out at the bar and chat — but I will be making a couple of “official programming” appearances, both of them on Friday.

    At 10 p.m., I’m on this panel:

    The Knowable and Unknowable in Horror
    DELAWARE CD: Exploring the contrast between the purely supernatural horror (ghosts, vampires) and those that border on science fiction (shoggoths!). In the former case, the horror arises from an absolute violation of natural law. In the latter, the phenomenon can, at least potentially, be understood. What special problems do these approaches present to the writer? Is the inherent nature of the dread itself (ghostly vs. cosmic) different?
    Mike Allen, Laura Bickle, Stephanie Feldman (m), Louise Marley, Tim Waggoner

    And at 4 p.m. in Union D, I have a reading. At present my plan, with Joe Pulver’s blessing, is to read an excerpt from my short story “The Sun Saw,” scheduled to appear next year in his anthology The Leaves of a Necronomicon. Expect ghosts, gore, and reflections on cosmic horror vs. horrors of racism.

    I hope to see old friends and meet new ones, via the panels and otherwise. See you there!

    originally posted at Mythic Delirium Books


    / October 23rd, 2016 / No Comments »

    Editor Brian Sammons have graciously accepted my new story “Aftermath of an Industrial Accident” for his upcoming anthology Transmissions from Punktown a tribute anthology to the Punktown stories created by Jeffrey Thomas.


    My story, a sci-fi/horror/workplace satire hybrid, might be the most gruesome I’ve come up with to date. (My story “The Sun Saw” written for Joseph S. Pulver Sr.’s forthcoming anthology The Leaves of a Necronomicon might come close.)

    I’m grateful to Jeffrey Thomas for this chance to play in his universe. It was quite a bit of nasty fun.

    Podcastle adapts “The Cruelest Team Will Win”

    / October 17th, 2016 / No Comments »

    It’s an honor to return to the “pages” of Podcastle — the venerable fantasy podcast site has released an audio adaption of my dark-fantasy-teetering-at-the-edge-of-horror short story “The Cruelest Team Will Win,” just in time for the Halloween season.

    Photo by By Ken Thomas

    Photo by By Ken Thomas

    Published last year in Rhonda Parrish’s Corvidae, “Cruelest Team” is the third story I’ve had published in a series that begins with “The Hiker’s Tale” (collected in Unseaming) and continues in Follow the Wounded One (published as a standalone chapbook by Not One of Us); my novel-in-revision Trail of Shadows is also set in this milieu, which imagines that certain people among us have spirit forms, either animal or demonic, and the ability to phase in and out of the spirit world, either avoiding the rest of us or preying on us as temperaments dictate. And though they might be a danger to us, such folks are even more dangerous to each other.
    Photo by Davefoc, CC BY-SA 3.0

    Photo by Davefoc, CC BY-SA 3.0

    Especially delicious for me is that “The Cruelest Team Will Win” features a cameo by one of my novel’s primary antagonists. If you give it a listen, I promise you can’t miss her.

    Readercon, World Fantasy, GeekMob, Guillermo del Toro

    / August 9th, 2016 / No Comments »

    Last time I wrote an update, Anita and I were about to drive up to Readercon in Boston. A whole lot has happened since, some of it fun, most of it not fun at all, but for purposes of this update I’m sticking to the fun stuff.
    Readercon itself was terrific for us. We held in essence a second launch reading and launch party for the Clockwork Phoenix 5 anthology. Rob Cameron, A.C. Wise, C.S.E. Cooney and Carlos Hernandez, Barbara Krasnoff, Sonya Taaffe and Keffy R.M. Kehrli all read excerpts from their stories. At the party, Anita and I got to meet even more of the Brooklyn Speculative Fiction Writers group that Rob belongs to — a delightful bunch and I suspect a rich source of talent that we’re all going to hear a lot more about through future years. I also had a well-attended solo reading in which I read the title story from my collection The Spider Tapestries.

    A.C. Wise (left), C.S.E. Cooney, Carlos Hernandez, Keffy R.M. Kehrli, Barbara Krasnoff, Rob Cameron and Sonya Taaffe at the Clockwork Phoenix 5 reading. Photo by Jim Freund.

    A.C. Wise (left), C.S.E. Cooney, Carlos Hernandez, Keffy R.M. Kehrli, Barbara Krasnoff, Rob Cameron and Sonya Taaffe at the Clockwork Phoenix 5 reading. Photo by Jim Freund.

    Just hours after Readercon wrapped up and Anita and I had started on our long way home, we got the news that the 2016 World Fantasy Award judges selected C.S.E. Cooney’s Bone Swans: Stories as a best collection finalist. (The news came first via happy text from Cooney, no less!) We’re so proud that Claire’s book is getting such prestigious recognition, and especially proud that we’re the ones who brought this book into the world. This World Fantasy nod is not just a first for Claire Cooney, but a first for Mythic Delirium Books. At present Anita and I have plans to attend the World Fantasy Convention in November. Should those plans change, we won’t keep it a secret; and if they don’t change, we look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones.
    Much closer to home and in time, the organizers behind the Roanoke Valley’s GeekMob event have invited me to be this year’s guest of honor. I’ll spend most of it behind a table chatting with whomever is inclined to stop by, perhaps selling a few books, and taking a break to give a half hour reading. GeekMob 2016 happens 1 to 9 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 14, at the Salem Civic Center. If you live nearby, come see us! More about GeekMob here.
    Finally, sharp-eyed Mythic Delirium contributor Adam Howe pointed out to me that there’s photographic evidence that master film director Guillermo del Toro owns my horror story collection Unseaming. This evidence emerged with the opening of the new Los Angeles County Museum of Art exhibition “At Home with Monsters,” featuring artifacts and images from del Toro’s Bleak House, the house he maintains as a kind of personal inspiration space. Unseaming pops up in a photo in the accompanying catalogue; it’s on a shelf in his living room, behind a life-size sculpture of Edgar Allen Poe! It’s hard to express what a thrill it is to know this.

    crossposted from mythic delirium books


    Here’s my Readercon schedule!

    / July 5th, 2016 / 1 Comment »

    I’m very pleased about my final schedule of readings and panels at Readercon in Boston this weekend. Anita and I look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones.
    We’ll also have copies of all our books with us (our big push will be for Clockwork Phoenix 5, and a little bit extra for The Spider Tapestries, but all the rest will be along, too), in case you want to get one in person and have it signed.

    Friday July 08

    5:00 PM A Clockwork Phoenix 5 Group Reading. Mike Allen, Rob Cameron, C.S.E. Cooney, Carlos Hernandez, Keffy Kehrli, Barbara Krasnoff, Sonya Taaffe, A.C. Wise. Contributors to the bestselling fifth installment in the critically-acclaimed, boundary-expanding Clockwork Phoenix anthology series read excerpts from their stories.


    Saturday July 09

    1:00 PM A Reading: Mike Allen. Mike Allen. Mike Allen reads stories and excerpts from his newest collection, THE SPIDER TAPESTRIES. In the words of PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, expect “weird and transgressive” tales that “defy genre and moral expectations.”


    Sunday July 10

    10:00 AM AT Autographs. Mike Allen, Joe Haldeman.
    1:00 PM 5 Tanith Lee – A Retrospective. Mike Allen, Gemma Files, Lila Garrott, Theodora Goss (leader), Sonya Taaffe. Tanith Lee authored over 90 novels and 300 short stories, a children’s picture book, poems, and television episodes. In 1980, she became the first woman to win the British Fantasy Award best novel award, for her book Death’s Master. Yet in 2010, Tanith Lee mentioned she was still writing novels, and consistently publishing short stories, but publishers were not interested in her longer works. Lee’s impact on the genres that make up slipstream fiction was significant. What leads a publisher to look at works from an influential, established writer and decide they are not worth the shelf space? How can we keep Lee in print, and in people’s minds?


    The end of a chapter in my writing career

    / May 2nd, 2016 / No Comments »

    Since mid-April, I’ve started a new chapter.
    Not so much in any particular writing project, of which I have several ongoing, but in my writing life as a whole.
    This “new chapter” feeling comes not from fresh goals I’ve set for myself, but from the way a number of endeavors of mine reached a satisfying denouement, a sort of serendipitous equivalent of the awards-giving scene at the end of the first Star Wars movie.
    CP5_widgetMay 2015 was a watershed month in my overlapping careers as writer, editor, publisher and journalist. On the freelance side, I hustled and huckstered my way through the $12,000 Kickstarter campaign to fund the Clockwork Phoenix 5 anthology. On the newspaperman side, I was the point person for The Roanoke Times’ coverage of the return of the restored Norfolk & Western J Class 611 steam engine, a once-in-a-lifetime event for many in this built-by-the-railroad city where I live. (I called these twin tasks my “Test to Destruction,” which, for the curious, is a reference to Keith Laumer’s short story in the ol’ Dangerous Visions anthology.)
    A lot more happened that month, some things awesome, one event a heartwrenching tragedy, but I’ll leave out those details for the sake of streamlining.
    On April 5, I hosted the launch reading for the completed Clockwork Phoenix 5 anthology in the Brooklyn Commons Café in NYC. Jim Freund had invited me to make the launch part of the monthly New York Review of Science Fiction Readings series that he’s overseen since the late 1980s.
    You can hear Jim and I talk about how successful the reading was on the Hour of the Wolf radio show, which Jim also hosts (click here to listen/download). We had a standing-room only crowd — according to Jim, the second-largest crowd in the decades-long history of the reading series. Rob Cameron, Shveta Thakrar, Barbara Krasnoff, Sonya Taaffe, A.C. Wise, and the duo of C.S.E. Cooney and Carlos Hernandez read excerpts from their stories (and in a couple of cases, the entirety of their stories), and even though these were all challenging, artistically-layered works, not the sort of stuff you think of as audience-friendly, this audience loved it. (There’s a Facebook photo album here; there’s even a File 770 report on the reading, a first for an event I’ve hosted.) It was a giddy night, and I spent most of the evening stunned by delight. After a full year of painstaking labor, I couldn’t have asked for a more amazing finale.
    And then, further adding to that sense of a chapter coming to a close: four days later, on April 9, I shared a first place award for best story and pictures from the Virginia Press Association. I don’t talk about my journalism career much at all on this blog (professionalism requires me to be careful about “crossing the streams”) but this feels worth sharing. The award was for our Sunday, May 31, 2015, coverage of the 611 steam engine’s return to Roanoke. My role? I boarded the 611 in Lynchburg, rode it back to Roanoke, and wrote about the people I met and the things I saw during that historic ride. (You can read that story by clicking here.)
    It was my first 1st place award from VPA since 2000, when I was part of a Roanoke Times team that claimed 1st place in the investigative journalism category, so to say it’s a satisfying personal milestone phrases it mildly. Another reason I’m fiercely proud of our 611 coverage? The second place prize went to The Washington Post, a paper with circulation at least five times our size.
    Anita couldn’t join me for the Clockwork Phoenix 5 reading, but she was there at the Virginia Press Award ceremony, which made it 100 times better.
    Now the CliffsNotes version: Clockwork Phoenix 5 made its funding goal May 28, 2015. The 611 came back to Roanoke on May 30, 2015. The launch for Clockwork Phoenix 5 happened April 5, 2016. The VPA awards were April 9, 2016.
    Okay, life, what next?

    Belated but still enthusiastic announcement: THE SPIDER TAPESTRIES is here (and LIBRARY JOURNAL likes it)

    / March 22nd, 2016 / No Comments »

    For reasons good and bad, I’m awfully behind in promoting my latest writing and publishing hijinx. So, belatedly but enthusiastically, more than three weeks after the fact, I’m thrilled to announce that my second short story collection, the ultra-ultraweird The Spider Tapestries: Seven Strange Stories, is loose in the world!

    TSPcover_widgetI had been planning on Book Day to share the full text of the wonderful blurb that World Fantasy Award winner Scott Nicolay wrote for The Spider Tapestries—except I never managed to make a Book Day announcement. So here it is now, still unbowed:

    “There was a time before the marketplace sliced our wild fantastic literature into bite sized chunks, a time when visions could be astounding, amazing, and weird all at once, a time when Clark Ashton Smith could mainline a Thousand and One Nights into million-colored suns. Now comes Mike Allen, shredding raw that scar-woven shroud between then, now, and infinity, releasing hallucinatory torrents of jewel-encrusted erotic transhumanism with the intensity of a quasar and stripping bare the secret wheels and cogs of the universe beside those lovers who would destroy them. Here are stories accelerating divine sibling rivalries into ultimate cosmic horror and offering unthinkable sacrifices to mark mere step stones on journeys redefining time, space, and identity . . . dangerous short stories, not padded doorstops, epic explosions out of almost microscopic doses. More than a simple collection, these seven tales overlap and interplay in a crystalline cubist web that might as easily be the nightmares of deities or the dead dreams of a painted cranium, pirated memories or the visions gifted in an azure star spider’s bite. Surrender yourself to The Spider Tapestries and let these tales rewire your mind past genre for a while­—a while woven out of an eternity.”

    One good thing about taking so long to write this post: I can include the complimentary review of the book that appeared in Library Journal last week!

    “The seven stories in this slim collection range from dark fantasy to sf to horror—sometimes all within one tale. There are enough spiders here to make an arachnophobe go into hysterics, but they are not the only ones spinning webs. Goddesses, aliens, and genetic splicers all pull on strings. Gems include ‘Sleepless, Burning Life,’ about a woman in love with a goddess, and ‘Twa Sisters’ with a man hiding secrets in his brain. Especially vivid in its blending of imagery and narrative is ‘Stolen Souls,’ in which a former cop tries to reconnect the stolen pieces of his lover’s consciousness.

    VERDICT: As he did with his previous collection Unseaming, poet Allen weaves intriguing connections among his tales, applying dizzying, sensual images. Poets often make excellent writers of the short form owing to their ability to use few words to evoke an emotion or paint a picture; this volume displays that skill.”

    Intrigued by all these wriggly insinuations? Here is a list of links to many (but not all) of the places where you can find The Spider Tapestries.

    Paperback: Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon DE | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound
    Ebook: Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon DE | Amazon AU | Nook | iBooks | Kobo | Scribd | Weightless


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