“The Duelists” sells to Star*Line

/ January 14th, 2012 / No Comments »

I’m still pretty giddy from the news that I’ve sold my first short story collection, but I had another sale earlier this week. New Star*Line editor F.J. Bergmann has accepted my poem “The Duelists” for her fall issue. Woo-hoo!

Apex Books to publish my first story collection: The Button Bin and Other Horrors

/ January 11th, 2012 / 4 Comments »

You might recall this post I made last month about creating an e-book collection of my horror tales?

Well, scratch that plan. Much to my delight, and with immense gratitude to Jason Sizemore: Apex Publications is going to do it. And it will be available in trade paperback too. Official press release here at the Apex blog.

The tentative table of contents (nothing set in stone yet, of course) looks like this (Anita helped me figure it out.)

  • The Button Bin
  • The Blessed Days
  • Humpty
  • Her Acres of Pastoral Playground
  • An Invitation via E-mail
  • The Hiker’s Tale
  • The Music of Bremen Farm
  • Stone Flowers
  • Let There Be Darkness
  • The Quiltmaker

That’s a lot of concentrated evil in one book.

I should note, the Papaveria Press special hand-bound hardcover edition of “The Quiltmaker” (the novella-length sequel to “The Button Bin”) is still a go. (And still seeking fabric.)

Teaching at the Roanoke Regional Writer’s Conference

/ January 9th, 2012 / No Comments »

Here’s a curious turn for you: I’m once again being asked to teach in a reputable setting.

Saturday, January 28 at 9 a.m. on the Hollins University campus, I’ll give a presentation called “The Last Redoubt: Writing Short Stories for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Markets” as part of the weekend-long Roanoke Regional Writers Conference (click here for details). My presentation is followed at 10 a.m. in the same room by fellow Roanoke writer Rod Belcher’s “Selling the Sense of Wonder: Writing, Marketing and Surviving Science Fiction/Fantasy and Horror.” (Rod has a novel on its way from Tor.) I chose the title “The Last Redoubt” based on the idea that speculative fiction is the last commercial genre where the short story scene remains important.

Now, to figure out what I’m actually going to say….

Mythic Delirium 26 table of contents

/ January 9th, 2012 / 2 Comments »

I’m pleased to be able to announce the official table of contents of the next issue of Mythic Delirium.

Myths and Delusions • Editorial • 2
Plutoid • John Philip Johnson • 3
Lost In the Static • G.O. Clark • 5
Grant Proposal • Lyn C.A. Gardner • 6
The Dark Flow • Kendall Evans and David C. Kopaska-Merkel • 7
The Sisters • April Grant • 8
Kin • S. Brackett Robertson • 10
The Journeymaker in Kestai • Rose Lemberg • 11
The Daughter of Lir • Sandi Leibowitz • 12
Home • Lyn C.A. Gardner • 14
Desert Stories • Larry Hammer • 15
The Forest King • Alexandra Seidel • 17
Under the Ashpodel • Erik Amundsen • 19
She Knocks • Amal El-Mohtar • 20
Tryptich: an Offering of Fruit • Dan Campbell • 22
Barbara Newhall Follett welcomes home • J.C. Runolfson • 24
Time to Grow Up Where There’s No Time At All • Jason Sturner • 25
Scythe-Walk • Sonya Taaffe • 26
Sleeping Furies • C.S.E. Cooney • 27
A Different Scheherazade • Alexandra Seidel • 28
The Woman Who Lived by the Ocean Was Lonely and Tried to Make Herself a Husband • Carma Lynn Park • 29
Mrs. Grendel • Noel Sloboda • 30
This Illusion of Flesh • Virginia M. Mohlere • 32


Interior art by Paula Friedlander, 4, 13, 23;
Don Eaves and Terrence Mollendor, 9;
Daniel Trout, 16; Anita Allen, 18 

Cover art and design by Tim Mullins


If you don’t want to miss it, subscribe to the paper version here at MythicDelirium.com or the electronic version here at Weightless Books.

Surprise poetry sales

/ December 30th, 2011 / No Comments »

Earlier this week I was contacted out of the blue by Denmark denizen Knud Larn, the editor of an old school sf fanzine called Fandom Forever, distributed by the Fantasy Amateur Press Association. “There is too little poetry in fanzines nowadays,” he said, made a nice offer and asked if I would contribute a new poem and four reprints. And so, I’m pleased to report that my poem “A Prayer,” a part of the “Claire-dare” series from 2010, will be appearing in Larn’s next issue, due out Feb. 1 (my birthday!) He’s also reprinting my sf-tinged poems “Strange Cargo,” “retrovirus,” “Tithonus on the Shore of Ocean” and “Charon Finds a Woman on the Gridshore,” specifically the “preferred text” versions from my 2008 collection The Journey to Kailash.

I’ve had another long term “surprise sale” recently come to a conclusion just this past Monday. Back in May I read my poem “Sisyphus Crawls” (another Claire-dare piece, now available in the latest issue of Fantastique Unfettered) aloud to the audience at No Shame Theatre here in Roanoke. Afterward a fellow named Luke Davis approached me and told me he liked the poem so much he’d happily pay me for a hand-written, framed version of it.

It took me a long time to get around to doing this. Part of it was all the work I was doing rewriting my first novel. Part of it was that, though I have a vestigial visual arts background — I started college as an art major, didn’t figure out writing was what really interested me more than anything else until my senior year — creating this piece was something now so far outside my usual paradigm that I couldn’t quite get my mind around it.

But I finally made it happen:

Something fun and sinister

/ December 28th, 2011 / 1 Comment »

As part of my rather complex leap into the e-book breach, I’ve mentioned that I plan to release a small collection of my previously published horror stories.

Toward that end, paper cutout artist and frequent Mythic Delirium contributor Paula Friedlander made this for me after reading the stories I plan to include:

I think what Paula does is fascinating — and that it’s also easy to be fooled into think she’s working in ink. So I’m including a few details in this post, just to give you a better idea:

Fantastique Unfettered 4 (featuring my fiction and poetry) out now

/ December 28th, 2011 / No Comments »

I already did a long blog post in which I talked about the contents of Fantastique Unfettered 4 in some depth, so I’ll stick to the most important information (from my perspective):

First, it’s out! You can find it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and soon at other places.

Second, there’s much reason for me to crow: the issue contains my sf novelette “Stolen Souls,” a joint interview conducted by Alexandra Seidel with me and Hal Duncan, and three poems by me, “Binary,” “Sisyphus Crawls” and “Seed the Earth, Burn the Sky.” The cover art by Luis Beltrán is based on my poem “Binary.”

Cover of Fantastique Unfettered 4

Clockwork Phoenix 2 stories included in Hartwell & Cramer’s Year’s Best Fantasy 10

/ December 21st, 2011 / No Comments »

CLOCKWORK PHOENIX 2I’m proud to be able to announce that two stories from Clockwork Phoenix 2: More Tales of Beauty and Strangeness are going to be included in David G. Hartwell & Kathryn Cramer’s Year’s Best Fantasy 10, forthcoming from Tor.com.

They are the novelette that opens the anthology, “Three Friends” by Claude Lalumière, and Saladin Ahmed’s Nebula Award-nominated “Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela.” Congratulations, guys!

This is, of course, the perfect excuse for me to mention (again) that I’ll be bringing Clockwork Phoenix 2 out as an e-book under my Mythic Delirium Books imprint next month, and that the first volume of Clockwork Phoenix is available now in e-format at Amazon.com and from Weightless Books.

“Budding” sells to Phantasmagorium

/ December 19th, 2011 / 2 Comments »

Received word this morning from Laird Barron that he’s buying my poem “Budding” for the next issue of Phantasmagorium. Woo-hoo! (“Budding” was inspired by a conversation with Nicole Kornher-Stace about child-rearing, something I have no first-hand experience with.)

Stories have their own lives

/ December 14th, 2011 / No Comments »

I have this horror story called “The Blessed Days.” It first appeared in Tales of the Talisman in 2009 and was adapted to audio by Pseudopod in 2010. Now it’s part of a new e-anthology called Past Future Present 2011 that’s available on Amazon for 99 cents. In fact, you can read it free, because it’s included in its entirety in Amazon’s free sample, though I hope you’ll purchase the anthology — given the lineup, with work by Hugo winner John Grant and two-time Nebula nominee Vera Nazarian, it’s certainly worth the price.

I’m going to use this opportunity to give a demon its due.

The spark of inspiration for “The Blessed Days” came from a conversation from a friend here in Roanoke, Jon Smallwood, who was meditating on the tidbit that “bless” evolved from a term that meant “mark with blood.” But as I wrote the story it involved into a piece in which I tried to express how I felt as a reporter when covering (from afar, yet feeling very much connected) events like the 9/11 attacks. (By the time the story was published, the 4/16 shootings at Virginia Tech had also factored in.)

But mind you, it is also a lurid tale of monsters, human and not. It went through many, many drafts, including an extensive rewrite just before the Tales of the Talisman issue that held it went to press. I’m still grateful that David Lee Summers took a chance on it. I still love the blunt illustration by Jag Lall that introduced the story with a bit of gory sleight-of-hand: dead-on accurate, yet what you see doesn’t mean what you think it means.

Reselling it to Pseudopod brought it to a bigger audience, and here’s where I kick myself a little, because the story generated more buzz at the time than I realized it was getting. (I was not yet a Google Alert master, heh.)

Take, for instance, this review from blogger Scientifically Bookish:

A reporter wakes up naked next to his girlfriend, covered in blood, beneath plastic sheets. But the story transcends its splatterpunk opening to achieve a more psychological brand of horror. The odd part is that the first half seems like an entirely different story than the second half. A lot of time is spent on how humanity deals with magically waking up covered in blood every morning, from infections down to haircuts. It is made clear that the blood isn’t the blood of the sleeping people, but appears out of nowhere.

Then the protagonist gets to use his exceptional lucid dreaming abilities to help a scientist friend figure out what’s going on, since the blood only appears when you’re asleep. From here we get into Lovecraft territory, and as the Pseudopod outro points out, you can’t help but think of Nietzsche’s famous “when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.” This one is truly scary despite the bloody, unlikely premise. The Mayan Apocalypse tie-in annoys me, but isn’t unjustified, and the ending is very good, in the horrifying sense of “good”. Love the last line.

I totally missed this when it first came out!

I also missed the initial comments in the Pseudopod forum, which made the same mistake this review makes.

A conversation I had with another friend here in Roanoke, Anne Sampson, led to the inclusion of Mayan mythology in this story, specifically the significance of the ceiba tree. That conversation happened sometime during Spring-Summer of 2005. (So now you know how long this story percolated.)

I regret that I can’t, two years later, wade back into this discussion and say: “Folks. You all have 2012 on the brain. I know that movie just came out. But this story way predates that. AND THERE IS NO MENTION OF THE MAYAN CALENDAR ANYWHERE IN THIS STORY. None whatsoever. Ahem.”

Timing is everything.

But it didn’t seem to damage things too badly, if this review from blogger “Ready When You Are CB” is any indication:

If you are a fan of horror fiction, especially a fan of dark horror fiction, you owe it to yourself to give Mike Allen’s “The Blessed Days” a listen. The stories hero has been plagued by debilitating recurring nightmares his entire life. He has sought help from sleep scientists as well as less reputable dream experts, to no avail. But his dreams, along with the dreams of everyone else on earth stop altogether after The Blessing begins.

One night, humanity experiences The Blessing simultaneously, as everyone wakes to find themselves covered in blood. Their own blood, which has leaked out of every pore in their body at once, just before they awoke. This continues to happen every time they fall asleep over the following two and a half years. No one dreams; everyone wakes up covered in blood.

How creepy is that?

Mr. Allen’s story is a tribute to the horror fiction of H.P. Lovecraft, the kind of story about the unleashing of dark and primitive gods, gods who demand blood sacrifice and give nothing in return that Clive Barker wrote about in his Books of Blood series. If it’s not your sort of thing you’ll run away screaming as soon as it begins. In fact, you may have run away already. But if you’re a fan of dark horror fiction, you really should give it a listen. It’s very good. It kept me sitting in my car in the parking lot at work listening. At National Public Radio they call that a driveway moment, but I don’t think “The Blessed Days” is quite what they had in mind.

You’ll note this reviewer mistakenly thinks folks are waking up in their own blood. I’ll attribute that to reviewing a story just listened to rather than one where you can flip back pages and double-check. Except, you know, people reviewing print make goofs like that all the time too, heh.

Maybe what I’m most sorry I missed: one of the commentors in the Pseudopod forums disagreed so strongly with what he believed my story was asserting about the essential nature of evil that his comments, on my story and subsequent ones he felt were similar, ended up leading to a huge forum debate in Summer 2010. How cool is that?

Our stories, they have a life of their own when we’re not watching.

Maybe I’ll get to be a more attentive parent this time around.

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