First story publication of 2018

/ February 7th, 2018 / 1 Comment »

I wanted to acknowledge that I’ve had a new tidbit of fiction appear, and that it’s quite a bit different from anything I’ve had pop out before.

First, it’s part of an ensemble piece, written for what the publishers called a “screaming corpse.” That’s not a literal corpse, believe it or not, but a type of “exquisite corpse.” In your standard “exquisite corpse” exercise, the writer of each new section is allowed to read only the previous section, so that the final product comes out disjointed and surreal. (With this particular story, the contributors were allowed to cheat, and read all the preceding installments, though things got pretty surreal anyway.) The requirement to turn an “exquisite corpse” into a “screaming corpse”? Every writer had to incorporate the phrase “And then the murders began” into their section.

Second, you only get to read this story if you backed The Kaleidocast: Season Two Kickstarter. The story was released to backers on Jan. 19. An audio adaptation by C.S.E. Cooney is forthcoming — also available only to backers.

Those who didn’t back this Kickstarter can gnash their teeth that they don’t get to read a story co-written by (in alphabetical order) myself, Marcy Arlin, Evan Berkow, S. A. Chakraborty, Phenderson Djèlí Clark, D.T. Friedman, Carlos Hernandez, Barbara Krasnoff, Bradley Robert Parks, J. M. Plumbley, Ted Rabinowitz, Rob Cameron, Catherynne M. Valente, Lilah Wild and Fran Wilde.

The story (really, it’s a novelette) is called “It Began in Red Hook.” Lovecraftian reference? Wouldn’t you like to know…

Illustration by Fred Stesney


Ye Olde Year’s End Wrap Up

/ December 31st, 2017 / No Comments »

Writing-career wise, 2017 was a deceptively quiet year for me, with a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes but not a lot to show for it publicly. With 2014, 2015 and 2016 being as lively as they were, I concede that a lull was inevitable.

But I didn’t fall altogether silent. These things happened:

    Me at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki after swiping Ian Watson’s Staff of Cthulhu. Photo by Anita

  • My novella “The Quiltmaker” was reprinted in the January issue of Apex Magazine.
  • My anthology Clockwork Phoenix 5 (published in 2016) mustered a powerful ensemble performance, first making the 2016 Locus Magazine Recommended Reading List, then landing a nomination for the World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology! The latter, as you might gather, was a first for me, and I’m still pumped about it.
  • I produced, on time, four more issues of my online zine, Mythic Delirium. I posted a 2017 awards eligibility post over at the Mythic Delirium site, where you can catch up on all the original poems and stories.
  • And a bit of lagniappe: Short stories I picked for Mythic Delirium and Clockwork Phoenix 5 were finalists for the Nebula, Aurealis and World Fantasy Awards.
  • Me reading at the Outer Dark Symposium. Love that banner! Photo by Eric Schaller

  • In March, I want to the first ever Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird in Atlanta, Georgia, a wonderful event where, among other things, I read excerpts from my short stories “Her Acres of Pastoral Playground” and “The Cruelest Team Will Win.” You can listen to that here.
  • In August, Anita and I celebrated our 25th anniversary with a trip to Finland and Iceland that not at all coincidentally included attending Worldcon 75 in Helsinki. (I wrote about some aspects of the trip here.) The Hugo Award ceremony was particularly spectacular, and I had the honor of speaking on the “Remembering Tanith Lee” panel about Tanith’s contributions to the Clockwork Phoenix series.
  • The “Remembering Tanith Lee” panel at Worldcon 75, photo courtesy Ian Whates. From left to right, me, Ian, Shawna McCarthy and John-Henri Holmberg

  • A new short story, “Binding,” appeared in August in Phantasm/Chimera: An Anthology of Strange and Troubling Dreams, edited by Scott Dwyer.
  • A new poem, “The Headless Hero,” appeared in the September issue of Dreams & Nightmares.
  • Another new short story, “Burn the Kool Kidz at the Stake,” appeared in the October issue of Not One of Us.
  • A particularly fun one: my horror story “The Button Bin” was translated into Chinese (the first time it’s ever been translated anywhere!) in the October issue of Science Fiction World Translations
  • And a cool surprise: my short story “Her Acres of Pastoral Playground” has been translated into Ukrainian!
  • Another new poem, “Draught,” appeared in the fall 2017 issue of Star*Line.
  • I dig this photo of me that Beth Gwinn took for Locus.

  • A neat final act, especially given how quiet things have been: Locus Magazine published a lengthy interview with me in their December issue.
  • Additional fun: helping out with the successful Kickstarter for the second season of Kaleidocast resulted in this chibi drawing.
  • Chibi me by Jennifer Chu

Most of my writing efforts went into completing an extensive revision of my novel Trail of Shadows, an expansion of my short story “The Hiker’s Tale.” The manuscript is still out on submission. Then I wrote two drafts of “The Comforter,” a novella-length sequel to my stories “The Button Bin” and “The Quiltmaker” (that also pulls in my story “Gutter” and a couple others that haven’t been published yet). I am in fact switching back and forth between revising “The Comforter” and typing this blog entry.

Here’s hoping that playing the long game pays off in 2018. Cheers!



/ December 4th, 2017 / No Comments »

The December issue of Locus: The Magazine of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Field is now in stores, and it contains something that’s, from my perspective, very unusual: a 4,600-word interview with me! New York Times-bestselling, multiple-award winning author Seanan McGuire is the headliner, as she damn well should be, and I’m like the opening act or the B-picture, take your pick. I’m super-flattered Locus editor-in-chief Liza Trombi found my oddball career worthy of that many column inches; Liza herself interviewed me via Skype.

The topics we covered include my collections Unseaming and The Spider Tapestries, moonlighting as a poet, my largely unknown novel The Black Fire Concerto, the childhood things that brought me in contact with science fiction, fantasy and horror, my problems with night terrors, the truly weird thing that happened that turned me into an editor when I’d never planned on becoming one, finding myself hailed as a writer of the Weird, the awesome time I had in March at The Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird, and more.

You can get the issue at the Locus website, and also at Weightless Books, and, I presume, participating newsstands.


New poem in STAR*LINE; new review in RUE MORGUE

/ November 20th, 2017 / No Comments »

So this was a surprise. I’d thought my poem “The Headless Hero” in the October issue of Dreams & Nightmares was going to be my last published poem for a while. But then a poem I had sent to Star*Line came out in the Fall 2017 issue just a month after I received a letter from the new editor expressing interest, thus proving my pronouncement about “The Headless Hero” greatly exaggerated.

“Draught” is a nightmarish rendition of a game of checkers. I wrote it some time back, I’m not quite sure what inspired it, whether it was a literal nightmare or a random musing.

Speaking of nightmares, Scott Dwyer’s anthology Phantasm/Chimera: An Anthology of Strange and Troubling Dreams received a glowing review in the Nov./Dec. 2017 issue of Rue Morgue, especially fun for me as the cover story celebrates the 30th anniversary of the first Hellraiser film.

My story “Binding” is one of the works highlighted in Dejan Ognjanovic’s review, accurately described as “an urban legend told among students about the sinister campus library.” Also highlighted: tales by Brian Evenson, Clint Smith, Livia Llewellyn, Christopher Slatsky, Matthew M. Bartlett and Jason A. Wyckoff. Ognjanovic writes, “Don’t let this small press [anthology] fall under your radar.”

It’s a pleasure to get a mention again in the pages of Rue Morgue, which published a flattering review of my horror collection Unseaming back in 2015.


New fiction & poetry + adventures in translation: an update

/ October 16th, 2017 / No Comments »

It feels like Anita and I haven’t had much time to take a breath since we got back from from Finland and Iceland in August. In my editorial for the newest issue of Mythic Delirium, I wrote a bit about how that trip went, and I’m still a bit too strapped for time to elaborate further, so I may just never get to. But some cool things have happened since we came back — so here, succinctly, are some writing career-related things that have gone down since our WorldCon adventure.
Translation into Chinese

My Nebula Award-nominated horror tale “The Button Bin” has been translated into another language for the first time ever — and it’s quite an auspicious foreign debut, as the story appears this month in Science Fiction World, China’s largest-circulation sf/fantasy magazine. That cover art is off the chain.
Two new horror stories

Phantasm/Chimera: An Anthology of Troubling Dreams, edited by Scott Dwyer, includes my horrotica tale-within-a-tale “Binding,” described in a Ginger Nuts of Horror review as “no-frills ghoulish fun.” You can get the anthology here.

The newest issue of John Benson’s Not One of Us features a surreal, stream-of-consciousness horror venture from me, “Burn the Kool Kidz at the Stake.” I’m tickled to be back in the pages of this long-running dark fiction zine, which you can subscribe to here.
One new poem

The latest issue of David C. Kopaska-Merkel’s Dreams & Nightmares contains “The Headless Hero,” the first poem I’ve had published in two years (and likely the last poem of mine to appear for a long while). Nonetheless, it’s cool to be back in the old stomping grounds.

“The Headless Hero” was inspired by a strange dream about a alternate-universe television show wherein the main protagonist has no body (thus the title is a playful inversion). The rest of the poem is playful, too: you can check out the zine here and see for yourself.

While I’m at it, I feel a need to note, tongue-in-cheek, that all my new publications this year are seriously old-school; that is, no e-versions exist. It’s like I’m back in the 1990s!
Translation into Ukrainian

“The Button Bin” isn’t the only story of mine slithering its way into another language. What you’re looking at is a Ukrainian translation of my Lovecraftian tale “Her Acres of Pastoral Playground” at the Warkô Movčök blog. Rather than a commercial venture, this was a labor of love done by professional translator Babasik Funkie on his own time.

Babasik tells me he’s working on the companion story, “Silent in Her Nest,” which flatters me hugely, not the least because I don’t think many people even know that “Her Acres” has a companion story! That’s some impressive “deep cut” knowledge of my oeuvre.

I’ll share that translation when it appears, too.
Works in progress

Earlier this year, I mentioned that I finished an intensive rewrite of Trail of Shadows, a novel that’s an expansion of my short story “The Hiker’s Tale.” The novel remains on the desk of the personage I pitched it to, so cross your fingers.

In the meantime, I’ve been working on a novella with the working title of “The Comforter,” the next story in the sequence begun with “The Button Bin” and “The Quiltmaker.” I wrote most of this one longhand — in fact, one of my fondest memories from the trip to Helsinki involves simply sitting on a bench atop a hill in the little park next to our hotel, enjoying the warm sun and a gentle breeze as I scribble away with pen on steno pad, concocting new terrors for my characters to endure. I’ve at last completed the first draft, but it’s mostly handwritten, so now comes the part where I transcribe it all into a word processor file.

That’s a lot to pack into a post — but now I’m caught up!


World Fantasy nomination & Tanith Lee panel at WorldCon 75

/ August 5th, 2017 / No Comments »

I put up a long post at the Mythic Delirium Books website about the World Fantasy Award nominations for my anthology Clockwork Phoenix 5 and for Rachael K. Jones’s story in it, “The Fall Shall Further the Flight in Me.” In that entry, I wrote about what the nominations mean from the perspective of an editor and publisher.

Here, I’m just plain ol’ me, squeeing that I actually made the World Fantasy Award ballot. It really is a longtime dream of mine, or at least an idle daydream that started up about the time Clive Barker’s Books of Blood became my favorite read as a teenager.

It’s especially wonderful that this nomination dovetails with the choice of the WorldCon 75 programming staff to place me on a panel commemorating the life and art of Tanith Lee.

Thursday, August 10, 2:00 p.m.
Remembering Tanith Lee, 101d, 14:00 – 15:00
John-Henri Holmberg, Shawna McCarthy, Ian Whates, Mike Allen

Tanith Lee (1947-2015) was one of the most influential English writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror from the 1970’s onward. Her books grappled with contradictions and intersections, especially with regards to horror and eroticism. Her protagonists were often lonely, lovely, and alienated.

Tanith Lee’s stories were the core of the Clockwork Phoenix anthologies through their first four volumes. I feel the need to refer everybody to yet another Mythic Delirium Books entry: here I wrote in detail about her significance to the Clockwork Phoenix books and how a relationship that started out wholly professional became something more for both myself and Anita.

I confess that with each of the first four volumes I had hoped against hope something like this would happen. It never did, and I am definitely sorry that this did not happen in Tanith’s lifetime, although she certainly had no shortage of honors from the World Fantasy Awards and many other awards institutions without any help from me.

Nonetheless I cannot help but feel that she deserves to be acknowledged in this posthumous nomination. And I intend to say so this coming Thursday when I’m speaking on the panel in Helsinki.

Last year I was included on a similar panel at Readercon, and something became clear to me, that I was working with Tanith in more ways then I realized, as the books produced through my ventures as an editor and publisher have been filled by writers inspired by Tanith. On some level I suppose I knew this, but up until that panel I’d not had it so dramatically underscored, listening to authors I’ve worked with and published on multiple occasions — Theodora Goss, Gemma Files, Sonya Taaffe and Lila Garrott — speak about how deeply Tanith’s work influenced them as young readers.

I also recognized during that panel that while the interactions I had with Tanith while she was alive were very dear to me, my relationship with her and her work was rather narrow in scope. So in preparation for this upcoming panel at WorldCon I reached out to other writers and asked them to share what Tanith Lee meant to them. I’m grateful to Dora Goss and Gemma and Sonya and Nicole Kornher-Stace and Silvia Garcia-Moreno and Craig Laurance Gidney, who did not hesitate to share their own very moving thoughts about Tanith. I will share as much of what they sent me as I can with the audience at the panel, and perhaps find a way to make these tributes even more widely available once we’ve returned to lil ol’ Roanoke.

I’m looking forward to seeing many old friends in this country that’s new to us, and also looking forward to making new ones. Onward we go!


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.

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