New story sales and stranger things

/ May 16th, 2017 / No Comments »

Art by Serhiy Krykun

Back in September, I threw myself full tilt into a long overdue redraft of my fantasy/horror novel Trail of Shadows, after about a year and a half of occasionally pecking at it while dealing with obligations related to Clockwork Phoenix 5.

This past Sunday, I finished that rewrite. (Or, more accurately, abandoned it.) And now that this monster of a book is off to market, I’m pondering which of two to four possible large scale writing projects will be the next thing I machete my way into.

In the meantime, things have happened, none of which I’ve reported here.

  • “Binding,” a surreal and gruesome little #librarotica story-within-a-story, is scheduled to appear in August in Phastasm/Chimera, an anthology of “strange and troubling dreams” from Scott Dwyer’s imprint The Plutonian. The book has a terrific table of contents that includes Livia Llewellyn, Brian Evenson, Matthew M. Bartlett and more. I understand the goal is a book launch at NecronomiCon in Providence.
  • “Burn the Kool Kidz at the Stake,” an exercise in stream-of-consciousness reality bending that may or may not also be a ghost story, is tentatively scheduled to appear in the October issue of John Benson’s terrific zine Not One of Us.
  • Speaking of excellent, long-running zines, David C. Kopaska-Merkel’s Dreams & Nightmares intends to publish my poem “The Headless Hero” in September. This is the first poem I’ve sold in many a moon and is likely the last one I’ll have published for a long, loooong time, so I’m glad it’s found a good home.
  • On the soundfile front, the talented young Brooklynite whippersnappers behind Kaleidocast are making plans to do a new audio adaptation of my horror story “The Blessed Days,” most recently seen in Unseaming. Apparently this involves capturing my soul inside a chibi drawing.
  • To give a little extra context to that very first item, Trail of Shadows is about 100,000 words set in the same hypothetical world as my short story “The Cruelest Team Will Win.” As with that story, there are spiders. I’m sure that’s a surprise. The novel is an expansion of “The Hiker’s Tale” that appears in Unseaming. Where there are also spiders. If it’s any solace, cats are in there, too.


    My schedule (in fact, the entire schedule) for the Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird

    / March 23rd, 2017 / No Comments »

    Saturday, I’ll be one of a host of intriguing writer guests reading and giving talks at an event near Atlanta called The Outer Dark Symposium of the Greater Weird. It’s an event created by Anya Martin and Scott Nicolay, the masterminds behind the Outer Dark podcast, now dwelling at the This Is Horror website.

    Outer Dark Coffee! Photo by Anya Martin

    There’s only one programming track, so I’ll get to be in the audience for the items I’m not participating in. (I’ve had an immensely busy week at my day job, so I still don’t know what I’ll be reading.) I’m quite excited about meeting a number of these folks, many of whom I only know by reputation or via social media.

    Bonus: it’s my understanding that all the panels will be recorded for future use as podcasts.

    9:30-10 AM

    10-10:15 AM
    INTRODUCTION: Scott Nicolay

    10:15-10:30 AM
    READING: Kristi DeMeester

    10:30-11:15 AM
    Though there have always been great Weird novels such as Die Andere Seite, The House on the Borderland, The Haunting of Hill House, and Our Lady of Darkness, many still see The Weird as a creature of the short form. Does this perception stem from a fixation on the writers associated with Weird Tales magazine? Is this perception a mistake? The current decade has seen a major boom in novel-length Weird including Jeff VanderMeer’s bestselling Southern Reach trilogy, with more to come including novels by some symposium participants. Why now, and what are the challenges and benefits of sustaining the Weird across a longer narrative?
    Moderator: Scott Nicolay
    Panelists: Kristi DeMeester, John Foster, Nicole Givens Kurtz, Michael Wehunt

    11:25-11:40 AM
    READING: Daniel Braum

    11:40-11:55 PM
    READING: Valjeanne Jeffers

    11:55-12:40 PM
    PANEL: Other Weird Tales: Unraveling Paradigms as the Protagonist Shifts Away from the Cis White Male
    Weird fiction, like SF/F/H, has predominantly centered on CIS white male protagonists mostly written by CIS white male authors. One of the most dynamic aspects of the contemporary Weird Renaissance is that this is no longer true. Non-CIS-white-male writers are not only altering the concept of what the Weird is as a literary form but also pushing its boundaries and defying editorial and publishing expectations. How does the narrative shift when the protagonist is a woman, a person of color, LBGT and/or disabled? What are some examples of good contemporary, or older Weird tales with Other protagonists that exemplify these different qualities? What challenges have the authors on the panel personally faced in approaching the Weird from Other perspectives–cultural, gender, orientation, etc.? Finally, how are new writers, new perspectives and new audiences opening up the Weird and spec-lit in general to new markets, and conversely how are new markets (small press, self-publishing) facilitating exposure to different voices?
    Moderator: Craig Laurance Gidney
    Panelists: Mike Allen, Gerald L. Coleman, Valjeanne Jeffers, Damien Angelica Walters

    12:40-12:55 PM
    READING: John Foster

    12:55-1:05 PM
    READING: Edward Austin Hall

    1:05-1:50 PM

    1:50-2:05 PM
    READING: Craig Laurance Gidney

    2:05-2:20 PM
    READING: Grafton Tanner

    2:20-3:05 PM
    PANEL: Not Another Bug Hunt: The Weird Monster as a Study of Singularity and in Différance
    The monster in traditional horror tropes (vampire, werewolf, zombie) operates within predictable modes of behavior and rules by which they can be destroyed or contained. Not so, with the monster in Weird fiction. What form or lack of form does the Weird monster take? Is the Weird monster always even recognizable as a “monster” by conventional definition, or is it better described through the lens of object oriented ontology? Does a concept like evil have any relevance or what, if anything, motivates the Weird monster? How does the role of the protagonist change when confronted with Weird versus traditional monsters?
    Moderator: Daniel Braum
    Panelists: Orrin Grey, Edward Austin Hall, Anya Martin, Eric Schaller

    3:15-3:30 PM
    READING: Balogun Ojetade

    3:30-3:45 PM
    READING: Mike Allen

    3:45-4:30 PM
    PANEL: The Dark Forward: The Weird and the Word as Resistance
    What happens when reality itself gets Weird? That’s how many people are describing the day-to-day dissonance of Trump’s America. For those who define the Weird as cosmic horror, it’s hard not to see a parallel between an indifferent or hostile universe and a government bereft of empathy. The Weird Fiction Renaissance predates this election, but the panelists explore the notion that the Weird may be uniquely positioned to be the literature of our time, as well as the role of writing in a Fascist Dystopia.
    Moderator: Balogun Ojetade
    Panelists: Selena Chambers, Milton Davis, Scott Nicolay, Grafton Tanner

    4:40-4:55 PM
    READING: Damien Angelica Walters

    4:55-5:05 PM
    READING: Eric Schaller

    5:05-5:15 PM

    5:15-6 PM


    A generous signal boost from Laird Barron + a new poem sale

    / March 14th, 2017 / No Comments »

    Laird Barron, one of my favorite horror writers of all time and a really generous guy (don’t miss his latest, Swift to Chase), started a series of posts over at his journal simply titled “Authors to Read.” Part I, from late February, highlighted great books from Karin Tidbeck, Livia Llewelyn and more; and I was thrilled to learn that the second installment includes my horror collection Unseaming. His one-line review:

    “journalist, horrorist; this is one of the best cosmic horror collections around”

    My publisher persona also had reason to rejoice, as he included C.S.E. Cooney’s World Fantasy Award-winning Bone Swans collection too, along with Jeffrey Thomas, Gemma Files and other authors I hugely admire.

    In other fun news, I’ve sold a poem, the first one in many, many months. David Kopaska-Merkel of long-running ’zine Dreams & Nightmares bought first rights to “The Headless Hero,” a bit of mean-spirited tongue-in-cheek stream of consciousness about television narratives and mutilated protagonists. The poem, inspired by a nightmarish dream, appropriately enough, is scheduled for the September issue.


    Locus Poll + Hugo eligibility/WorldCon + MystiCon

    / February 22nd, 2017 / No Comments »

    I’ve often broken the informal “three things make a blog post” law, but this time around I fully intended to combine three things in one post, heh.

    Thing One:

    I’m delighted that Clockwork Phoenix 5 made the 2016 Locus Recommending Reading List and thus is included in this year’s Locus Poll in the Best Anthology category. (The poll is used to select the Locus Award finalists.)

    This is the first time an entire book of mine has made the list since the very first Clockwork Phoenix volume, eight years ago. (Individual stories from the second through fourth volumes made the list, but not the whole shebang.) I super-proud of and grateful to the Clockwork Phoenix 5 contributors, whose shoulders I’m standing on.

    The magazine I edit, Mythic Delirium, is a Locus Poll choice for Best Magazine (a dark horse choice, I freely admit), and, to my delighted surprise, of which I’ve gotten to experience a lot lately, the poll for the first time includes me among the choices for Best Editor!

    There’s any number of solid options besides, of course. If you’re interested, you don’t need to be a subscriber to Locus to vote. The deadline for voting is April 15.

    Thing Two:

    Speaking of dark horse options — but on my mind because Anita and I are planning to attend WorldCon 75 in Helsinki — I thought I should make mention at least once that according to the Hugo Award rules, I’m qualified for the Short-Form Editor category, and Mythic Delirium qualifies as a semiprozine. There are many other potential candidates with much bigger profiles, but at least I’ve now said it, heh.

    I did have three original short stories published last year, which I’ve written about here; in terms of stories to consider for the Hugo, though, I’d much rather point people to the 2016 Mythic Delirium Books eligibility post, here. (That list now contains a Nebula Award finalist and an Aurealis Award finalist, woo-hoo!)

    The deadline for Hugo nominations is March 17, and I’m looking forward to eventually casting my first Hugo votes, and actually being there when the results are announced.

    Thing Three:

    Speaking of attending conventions, Anita and I will be programming guests at sold-out MystiCon in Roanoke this coming weekend. Though I’m on a number of panels, I’ve deliberately not signed up for any autograph sessions or readings — I decided I wanted a break from book peddling, as my time these days is mostly consumed with a novel rewrite-in-progress. But if you’re going to be there, don’t hesitate to say hello!

    Bonus: for my day job, I wrote about MystiCon’s artist guest of honor, Mark Davis.

    “The Quiltmaker” at Apex Magazine

    / January 20th, 2017 / 1 Comment »

    Starting today at Apex Magazine, my 20,000-word horror story “The Quiltmaker” is free for all to read. This is easily my most gruesome published work to date, originally available only in my Shirley Jackson Award-nominated collection Unseaming. My thanks to Jason Sizemore and his crew for bringing it to a whole new audience!

    I’m in great company in this issue, which also contains stories by Lia Swope Mitchell, Iori Kusano, Ursula Vernon, James Beamon, J.J. Litke and Rich Larson.

    I should mention that the Nebula Award-nominated prequel to this story, “The Button Bin,” is also available at Apex Magazine.

    Hopefully the make-believe horror will help take your minds off the real horrors so prevalent this week.

    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.

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