UNSEAMING cover artist a Chesley Award nominee

/ June 16th, 2015 / No Comments »

Even before the release of Unseaming last October, folks were expressing to me their enthusiasm for (or terror of, or repulsion by, or some combination thereof) horror photographer Danielle Tunstall’s arresting cover image. The buzz only grew once the book came out.
Unseaming_MD_web(Fact is, though I don’t think I could ever have dreamed up a better piece of art to match “The Button Bin” and “The Quiltmaker,” the stories that form the core of my collection, once I knew Danielle’s piece would be the book’s cover I also knew that the original title, The Button Bin and Other Horrors, would never do. The title had to enhance, not undermine, that image. Thus came Unseaming.)
This is why the delightful shock that Danielle’s cover for Unseaming is a finalist for the 2015 Chesley Award for best paperback cover just goes to show that sometimes great work from someone outside the system does indeed get the recognition it deserves. The Chesley Awards are given each year at WorldCon by the members of the Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists, making them the illustrators’ equivalent of the Nebula Awards. Danielle is not a member; frankly, was unfamiliar with the group and the award prior to the announcement yesterday.
I had the pleasure of breaking the news to her yesterday afternoon (evening where she lives.) She reports that her daughter Estelle (seen here on the cover of Mythic Delirium 0.1) is suitably impressed.
In celebration, Danielle is offering new prints of her award-nominated cover art for sale on eBay. Please do check that out here.
There’s a fascinating story behind this image. The model for the cover, Alexandra Johnson, was a fan of Danielle’s who won a free photo shoot. Their meeting evolved into a full-blown collaboration once they began to work together. You can see a number of the photographs Danielle has taken of Alex here.
Alexandra, a brave model, has scoliosis. She and Danielle worked together on a series of images depicting the condition’s psychological toll, which is where the photograph that became my book cover came from. I’m pleased that they’ve continued to work together, because there’s clearly a gleefully sinister synergy between them.
And I couldn’t be prouder that the series ends (at least in Danielle’s blog entry) with an image of the Unseaming cover.
Finally, my thanks, once again, to Elizabeth Campbell of Antimatter Press, who made all of this possible.

THE QUILTMAKER limited edition is here!

/ June 10th, 2015 / 1 Comment »

Erzebet YellowBoy Carr of Papaveria Press has taken my most relentless horror story and shaped it into something beautiful. The Quiltmaker is available now in a very limited edition, a hand-bound hardcover with stunning cover art from Paula Arwen Owen.

I’ve long admired Erzebet’s beautiful handmade books, and I’m supremely honored to at last have one of my own. Only 18 of these were made, and only 13 are still available. (One copy is going to lucky Clockwork Phoenix 5 Kickstarter backer Tricia Murray as a giveaway prize.)

They’re $25 plus shipping, which is an absolute steal. You can buy them directly from Erzebet here.
Here’s a shot from Erzebet of the books when they were in progress:

Beautiful evil in larva form

And here’s a much less accomplished photograph of the book here in Roanoke:

But how big are they, really?

As an added bit of fun, the poetic blurb we came up with for the book:
A quiet neighborhood seething with hidden sins.
A troubled son returned, consumed by an evil beyond human ken.
That will seek what his neighbors keep concealed, not just behind their doors, but inside their skins.
A force that will peel them open, and stitch them all together again.




/ June 9th, 2015 / No Comments »

A nice surprise at the end of an arduous if triumphant May: my Shirley Jackson Award-nominated horror story collection Unseaming earned some kind words in the latest issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction from reviewer Paul di Filippo:

“Representing sixteen years of prose output from a fellow better known for his poetry and editing skills, these stories nonetheless show a writer with a natural facility for offbeat, gruesome conceits and expert delivery. Take a story like ‘The Blessed Days,’ which shows a future Earth where everyone exhibits copious bloody stigmata while they sleep. Such a notion is hard to reify plausibly, much less explain, but Allen does both. Then there’s ‘The Music of Bremen Farm,’ which takes a familiar folk tale and puts a creepy modern spin on it. Finally, ‘The Quiltmaker’ picks up where Allen’s Nebula-nominated ‘The Button Bin’ left off, giving us familial horrors encapsulated in unforgettable visuals.”

My thanks to Simon Strantzas for tipping me off. Paul also had kind words for his new collection Burnt Black Suns, also a Shirley Jackson finalist, also featuring an introduction by Laird Barron!
No rest for the wicked here. Anita and I are gearing up for Readercon, where we’ll be celebrating my Shirley Jackson nomination (and finding out who actually wins), and launching Bone Swans by C.S.E. Cooney, the first single-author story collection from Mythic Delirium. Plus, the Clockwork Phoenix 5 Kickstarter made it goal (Yes! Whew!) and the book is now open to submissions.

UNSEAMING is a Shirley Jackson Award finalist (and a CLOCKWORK PHOENIX 5 giveaway prize)

/ May 8th, 2015 / No Comments »

So this was always the plan—
Well, the idea that my short story collection Unseaming would be one of the rewards in a Kickstarter campaign for Clockwork Phoenix 5, that has been my plan for quite some time. Most every publishing project I tackled in 2014, I had in the back of my mind (or even the front of my mind) the notion that it would double as a Kickstarter prize.
What I didn’t plan for: the way Unseaming picked up a momentum all its own. Selling over 3,000 copies so far (mostly on Kindle, where, by the way, it’s still available at 99 cents through the end of the day, that wasn’t planned either), picking up starred reviews, and now, my Creepy Book That Could is a Shirley Jackson Award finalist.
Talk about an honor. Especially when I look at the fellow finalists in my category: Helen Marshall, Simon Strantzas, Robert Shearman, Stephen Graham Jones. I’ve read or am reading three of the four books, and they’re all terrific. It’s fortuitous that Anita and I were already planning to go to Readercon in July, where the winners get announced. I’ll be in great company.
I want to thank the judges for liking the book enough to include it on that wonderful list; my publisher, Elizabeth Campbell, for making all of this possible; and all the folks who’ve helped along the way.
Something I did plan: the Clockwork Phoenix 5 campaign is floating toward the $3,500 mark (there’s quite a ways to go still, with 20 days to go as of this writing). When we hit that mark I plan to give away at least one (likely more) signed trade paperback copies of Unseaming (via names drawn from a hat) to my Kickstarter backers. I hope you’ll consider becoming one of them!
What a week, what a month, what a year.

The last Claire-dare poem and a look back

/ April 15th, 2015 / 1 Comment »

So, at the end of 2010, I thought my days of writing poetry were behind me. I had gone from someone excited about speculative poetry, who advocated for it anywhere the opportunity arose, to someone so burned out and dejected by the state of the scene that I doubted I’d ever write it again. It depressed me to no end. (For evidence, what I wrote back then in a locked post: “For many months, when it comes to writing poetry, I’ve been blocked. Even the thought of trying depressed me.”)
Along came C.S.E. Cooney, who rained down prompts on me and encouraged her friends and family to do the same. (Nicole Kornher-Stace, Patty Templeton and Sita Aluna (Claire’s mum!) all participated, as I recall.)
And it worked. The wall that kept the poetry from me crumbled away. The result: a cycle of a dozen poems that I call the Claire-dare poems, that have a special place in my dark heart.


As of this spring, the last unpublished Claire-dare appeared in the world — with the appearance of “The Bone Bird” in the latest issue of Spectral Realms — and I wanted to take stock of the series. I’ve listed them in the order I wrote them, still preserved in a series of locked Livejournal posts. Then noted where they ended up and when, and if it’s still possible to read them or get hold of them, I’ve included the link:

  1. Sad Wisps of Empty Smoke,” Van Gogh’s Ear, Jan. 9, 2015
  2. “Binary,” Fantastique Unfettered 4, December 2011
  3. “Empty Nest,” Illumen, Spring 2011
  4. “The Bone Bird,” Spectral Realms 2, Winter 2015
  5. “Heart’s Delight,” Not One of Us 46, October 2011
  6. The Vigil,” Goblin Fruit, Autumn 2012
  7. “Sisyphus Crawls,” Fantastique Unfettered 4, December 2011
  8. “Seed the Earth, Burn the Sky,” Fantastique Unfettered 4, December 2011
  9. “These Wonders Are Yours,” Illumen, Spring 2011
  10. “A Prayer,” Fandom Forever 1, March 2012
  11. The Unkindest Kiss,” Apex Magazine 20, April 28, 2011
  12. La Donna del Lago,” Strange Horizons, August 22, 2011



Once upon a time I wouldn’t have thought twice about gathering these up into a chapbook of some sort. Any thoughts out there about this idea?
(I should mention that the new Spectral Realms also holds a rare “Dwarf Stars”-sized poem from me, “Purloined.” And that an upcoming issue will contain the poem I actually co-wrote with C.S.E. Cooney, “Toujours Il Coûte Trop Cher.”)

New story sale, new Rhysling nomination

/ April 14th, 2015 / No Comments »

So I’ve written a new Lovecraftian tale, my first explicit stab at the Mythos since “Her Acres of Pastoral Playground” appeared in Cthulhu’s Reign in 2010.
My new story is called “The Sun Saw,” and I’m proud to share that it will be appearing in Joseph S. Pulver’s forthcoming anthology The Leaves of a Necronomicon.
The premise of Joe’s book is delightful — Leaves traces the ownership of a single volume of The Necronomicon through the decades, in the manner of Accordion Crimes by Annie Proulx. Some contributors were asked to coordinate their efforts for narrative consistency. I, however, was not. I was asked to set my story in the 1950s, which I did.
“The Sun Saw” takes place in the same milieu as my story “Gutter” from Unseaming, though a casual reader probably wouldn’t find any evidence of that. You’ll just have to take my word for it for now; I’m working on a couple of stories that would make the connections clear, but they’re nowhere close to finished.
Chaosium intends to release The Leaves of a Necronomicon in August. (August will be a big month for me, as that’s when Rhonda Parrish’s Corvidae anthology is also scheduled to drop, with my new story “The Cruelest Team Will Win,” set in the same continuum as my stories “The Hiker’s Tale” and “Follow the Wounded One.”)
Speaking of works tied to other works, which I seem to be doing a lot of lately, my poem “Dearly Beloved,” published last year in Postscripts to Darkness, landed a Rhysling Award nomination. The poem is set in the same far future Earth as my short stories “Twa Sisters” and “Still Life With Skull.” (And I’m right now working on a new story in that series.)
I’m grateful to Dominik Parisien for giving the poem a home (this is on top of all the work he did editing my newest poetry collection, Hungry Constellations.) I owe the man at least a beer, don’t you think?


/ April 13th, 2015 / No Comments »

Unseaming_MD_webHa! I’m been so busy doing things I’ve fallen behind on the blogistic duty of explaining what I’ve been up to. Well, this is a good way to return to form.
My Unseaming “book tour” is over, or has at least landed in a long pause. (I hope to share more about what all of that was like very soon!) My (Gruesome) Little Collection That Could has picked up some more nice notices along the way, though.
Locus Online has reprinted the review by Stefan Dziemianowicz that ran in the March print issue of Locus. It’s a review I feel incredibly lucky to have:

Allen can write as lyrically and as viscerally as the best of them … an exceptional debut collection, and its stories show an imaginative writer with a very original voice working at the top of his game.

You can read the full review here.
The March issue of Rue Morgue also held a review of Unseaming, this one from Serbian novelist and critic Dejan Ognjanovic. The review begins:

You just can’t turn your eyes away from the stunning cover by Danielle Tunstall: the seams of the skin coming undone and revealing the new flesh beneath. The image is a perfect introduction to the haunting world of Mike Allen, one of the most original practitioners of the body horror subgenre since Clive Barker’s Books of Blood.

When I was 16, The Books of Blood were my favorite books, period. And I’m still fond of them 30 years later. So you can imagine how that review made me feel…

In case you missed it (cuz I did too!): new story at DRABBLECAST

/ March 23rd, 2015 / No Comments »

Ticks are never easy to spot. An intelligent species of them would be especially evasive, n’est-ce pas?
Folks familiar with my work might find my short story “Tick Flick” an unusually sweet and sentimental depiction of friendship, except that the friends so depicted happen to be giant, sentient ticks. Obviously I wrote this story with commercial conformity in mind.
Accepted by the disturbed gentlemen of The Drabblecast, “Tick Flick” was tentatively scheduled for a spring release, but instead crept under the seams of 2014 and bit down just before the joint of New Year’s Eve, becoming, without my knowing it, my final publication of the old year rather than the first story of the new.
Drabblecast released “Tick Flick” as a “B-Side,” meaning you must be a subscriber in order to hear it. If this issue’s gorgeous cover art doesn’t get you to sign up (which you can do here) then I don’t know what’s wrong with you. Feast your eyes:



New with UNSEAMING: KGB reading Feb. 18; bonus story for Kindle

/ February 12th, 2015 / No Comments »

Fans of weird fiction have been very good to my debut collection, Unseaming — it’s easily the fastest-selling title I’ve ever produced in my 20 years of doing this kind of thing. (And though out-selling my previous titles leaps a pretty low bar, had you told me four months ago that my royalty earnings were going to surpass the equivalent of 6 cents/word for all 14 stories, I would have laughed at you.) I put a lot of work into this book, but I sure didn’t make that happen alone, so again, again, thank you to everyone who has helped out this strange little tome.
I’m reasonably certain that at least some of the folks who like Unseaming would also get a kick out of my dark fantasy novel The Black Fire Concerto. The overwhelming majority of sales for Unseaming have been Kindle sales, specifically American Kindle sales. So, operating on the principle that too late is better than never, and with thanks to publishers Antimatter Press and Haunted Stars for making this easy, part one of The Black Fire Concerto, “The Red Empress,” has been added to the Kindle edition of Unseaming. (Rose Lemberg’s idea, thank you!) If you bought Unseaming before I added “The Red Empress,” my understanding is that you can update your copy; at least the information linked here strongly implies it.
The book also newly contains a link to register for my fresh-minted newsletter (thanks for this idea to Shveta Thakrar), which, if anyone actually subscribes to it, I will use to provide updates on my next ventures into The Weird. (I do have things planned, oh yes I do.)
I hope to see you there if you can make it.

Something completely different: THE SKY-RIDERS, in ebook and audio

/ February 12th, 2015 / No Comments »

So I waited until all the pieces were in place before formally announcing this one, though I’ve been plugging it on Twitter for a lil’ while now. Behold The Sky-Riders, a new novelette that’s quite a departure for me, available in numerous online places in electronic and audiobook editions.

Electronic edition

Electronic edition

Audiobook edition

About five years ago I got a hankering to create a story that would be nothing like the dream-like dark fantasy and horror I tend to produce when left to my own devices. It would be fun! Upbeat! Retro! A Western, even, a steampunk Western! I didn’t intend, however, to try this dangerous stunt alone. I turned to my longtime friend and newspaper colleague Paul Dellinger, whose knowledge of both the Western genre and the Old West is jaw-dropping. (And I knew it would be fun to collaborate with Paul, so this was a great excuse.)
Paul and I and Anita began to brainstorm characters and plotlines; my friend Shalon Hurlbert, too, contributed some ideas about how a solar-powered airship built in the 1890s might work. I ended up asking Paul to tackle the first draft, because what I wrote to start us off with had the wrong feel, or so it seemed to me. And I loved what Paul came up with; the final story is altered from his first draft only in subtle ways, so his name goes first as far as I’m concerned.
We think we concocted something fun and, in its own way, refreshingly different, but we didn’t connect with an editor, as happens, y’know? Paul and I had already discussed going the self-publishing route when I saw some samples of artwork from Orion Zangara and Derek L. Chase that made me realize they would do a wonderful job of creating a cover to go with our story. That sealed the deal.
I have a number of e-books out, but Sky-Riders is my first ever straightforward direct-to-self-publishing venture. Paul’s as well. When he met Anita and I for dinner prior to the book’s release, Anita suggested that perhaps Sky-Riders could also be an audiobook, especially given my experience working with Robert G. Davis on The Black Fire Concerto — Davis works at what a great science fiction film labeled “ludicrous speed.”
And lo! And behold! Here it is. I hope you’ll check it out. This link leads a page that shows all the places you can buy it.
Paul also has a wonderful collection out with a Golden Age of SF feel from start to finish, Mr. Lazarus and Other Stories. I hope you’ll check that out too.

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