Thursday, October 30, 2008

I Confess

William Jones is running a contest on his blog regarding the upcoming Tales Out Of Miskatonic University. He is offering a prize for people who guess who is going to be part of this anthology. If you want details, I suggest going to his blog.

That being said, I will fess up and announce that my story "At The Pillars of Canaan" will also be in the anthology by Mythos Books. I can't tell you much about it at this time, other than to say it gets filed under "extra-curricular" activities in the Miskatonic directory.

And while I am making one announcement, I will also allow myself a small smile for having been noted in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror by Ellen Datlow. and Kelly Link...Honorable Mention for THE OTHERS in Elder Sign Press' "HIGH SEAS CTHULHU". Honorable mention aint much. But its worth a smile.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Halloween Read

I have just finished Richard Laymon's Traveling Vampire Show. What a strange experience.

Let me first say that I've read much of this author and recommend him to those who love horror; most of you who love horror have probably already read his work. If you haven't, then allow me to suggest what I consider to be his best piece "Night In The Lonesome October", which wasn't just an astonishing suspense/horror story, but an astonishing work of fiction. Its prose and timing rivaled Bradbury's darkest work and the characters created by Laymon are entirely believable and worth knowing.

So what's the deal with The Traveling Vampire Show? I have never sat on the edge of my seat for this long with a novel. Page after page I held my breath and felt true dread. That is an amazing feat to pull off for a writer, and what made it even more amazing was that basically nothing was happening. Two thirds of the novel is character development and set up. And yet he manages to scare the poop out of you. It's an astonishing feat, one that I am reviewing right now to see how he does it.

Don't get me wrong, Laymon is not a good writer. A good storyteller, but not a good writer (with the exception of "In The Lonesome October"). He relies too often on the gross out factor and sometimes his plots clank improbably along. This story, told in first person, is about three teens in the early sixties, living in a small rural town. When posters appear around town advertising the arrival of the vampire show (a little bit of a bow to Bradbury's "Something Wicked This Way Comes), the characters make plans to attend. All the action that follows occurs through the course of one day.

Unfortunately, when someone spends an entire novel doing set up, it is almost impossible to deliver on what is promised. And this is the case with "Vampire". I'm sure many people will enjoy the final battle royale, but it seems to just degenerate into so much pointless violence and sex. The joy of this novel is everything that happens before the three kids actually get to the show---and that's the lesson for horror writers. The horror comes not from what happens but from the anticipation of what is going to happen and from the relationship the reader forms with the characters. If we don't care about the characters, then what is about to happen to them has no meaning for us.

And by the way...another good read for Halloween would be "Blood Crazy" by Simon Clark (dear god....this one was brilliant. Clark is hit and miss, much like Laymon, but this is a hit...the premise is that for some reason as a species we suddenly turn on anyone under eighteen and try to kill them. Social commentary and apocalyptic horror told from a teen's perspective)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


While putting together the Halloween playlist, I started coming up a slew of fascinating tunes, basically covers in the form of tribute albums. If an artist has a history and has garnered any small amount of respect in the music community, then somewhere at sometime fellow musicians have come together to compile interpretations of the apex of that person's catalogue. Well, maybe not always the apex, but there are some interesting interpretations available.

For instance, if you like the work of Van Morrison, Casandra Wilson performing "Crazy Love" is a sexy, soulful rendition. Maybe something harder? How about Motorhead performing Metallica's "Whiplash"?  Or how about Metallica peforming a tribute to Iron Maiden with a cover of "Remember Tomorrow"? Me? I'm an Alice Cooper fan. He actually has three tribute cd's, with the best of them featuring a slick cover by Bruce Dickinson.

Take a gander and you'll see tributes to Harry Chapin, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Judas Priest, ABBA, Depeche Mode, Frank Sinatra, The Smashing Pumpkins, The Beatles, Steve Goodman, Joy Division, and Johnny Cash. I'm just ladeling a few names here, the titles go on and on...

Want something a bit strange? "Back in Baroque... The String Tribute to AC/DC" or "Gone Phishin': A Bluegrass Tribute to Phish"  What about "Harptallica: A Tribute", featuring the all-female Harptallica, covering Metallica's tunes with classical harp.

Lot's of good music. And sometimes the cover outshines the original. 

Friday, October 17, 2008

Halloween Playlist

Why do we do playlists? What an amazing conceit! Who gives a damn what music someone listens to during a specific time of year or to get into a mood. How pathetic. Truly. People who post their playlists have enormous egos that are nothing more than bloated shells.

Here is my playlist. Twenty five songs to cruise along under charcoal skies as Halloween Eve nears.

1. Welcome To My Nightmare (Alice Cooper says hello, let's get this thing started)

2. Mr. Crowley (Ozzy Osbourne creates atmosphere and menace with the homage)

3. I Put A Spell On You (There have been many versions of this tune, but Joe Cocker's is the most soulful. Or else go for the original by Screaming Jay Hawkins).

4. Werewolf (I love this song about a father forced to hunt down his son by the light of the moon. Five Man Electrical Band. By the way, this is the band who gave us "Signs".)

5. Bela Lugosi's Dead (Who doesn't love Bauhaus?Over nine minutes of Gothic head nodding)

6. Bad Moon Rising (CCR...A little menace from the Biyou)

7. Call of Ktulu (Metallica has written many songs that would fit in perfectly with this playlist, but hey...Cthulhu and I have a relationship)

8.Don't Fear The Reaper. (This song by Blue Oyster Cult has been featured in several horror films, including Carpenter's "Halloween". And it has Cowbells!!!)

9. Season of the Witch (Now you can go with the original Donovan version, maybe try the Stephen Stills/Mike Bloomfield version, but let me recommend the 'nighttripper', Dr. John.)

10. Sympathy for the Devil (Mick or Axel, take your pick)

11. Bloodletting (A  song for Concrete Blonde. This is vampire music for people too cool for Laurel K. Hamilton)

12. Zombie Jamboree (fun calypso piece...there are several versions of this floating around, but I think Harry Nillsson's is the most fun..."Oh, my God..there's a zombie on my belly!!!!)

13. Temple of Light (Creepy instrumental by Delerium, not for lights out entertainment)

14. This is Halloween (A cover of Elfman's song for the Burton movie by everyone's favorite attention whore: Marilyn Manson)

15. Number of the Beast (I was always afraid something would be summoned when Iron Maiden performed this)

16. Godzilla (this is for Mark Rainey...a tribute to the giant of Tokyo, again Blue Oyster Cult and cowbells.)

17. Creepy Crawler ( bit of electronic house music by Zombie Girl. It's not exactly art, but it will keep you nodding while the Belgium boys in the hostel do splits)

18. Into The Coven (Merciful Fate...a wee bit o 'celtic pretense for a wee bit o' pagan flummery. A moody electronic violin piece that seques into a good bit of metal pounding. Actually, pretty decent even for a Danish band, even for a Danish band with King Diamond)

19. Seance-(Gothic instrumental drama....Nox Arcana...put this on, turn out the lights, and wait in the closet for somone to come)

20. My Violent Heart (Trent..Nine Inch Nails...he's a disturbed individual)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

FAT MAN (Halloween flash fiction)

This bit of flash fiction is for Charles...

Snaking lines gawked as the rubes smacked down their coin to be reassured of their own humanity. He sat in silence and let them shake their heads at his unimaginable girth. How could he walk? How could he take care of himself? Who would love him? And having sated themselves, the people returned to their homes and did the things that defined them as less than God.

When the lights dimmed and the carnival at last quieted, he sat in the blackness and tested the air. Slipping into the night, he whimpered as the hunger built. Mole-like eyes shined as he tasted the air and began to feed. He shoveled in the greed, the selfishness, the jealousy. He paused to savor the anger, but not too long for there was so much else to tempt him at this buffet. He devoured the shame, the prejudice, and the black misery. The hatred was so rich that he almost had to turn away.

And for dessert? All the despair, loathing, and foulness that waited for a young life still in its womb. That was the best. Yes. Stealing that little one’s future was sweetest. Untested. Foulness unspent. He would savor it and let the innocent emerge into the world a blank.

Deliciously stuffed, he crept back into the tent.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Someone To Believe In

I have been trying and trying to avoid making any political comments. Really. But I can hold back no longer. I've reached my cracking point. Maybe it was Conclave 33, maybe it was the rash I had on the back of my leg. Whatever. But now I have decided to throw my support to a political candidate, and it isn't any one you would think.

Go ahead. Follow this link and see what movement will soon be sweeping the U.S.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Nox Arcana

This is like the best time of year. I love October. And I think Halloween is on a Friday. What could be better?

Naturally, I have Carpenter's "Halloween" theme already programmed on my cell phone. The wallpaper on my computer has been swapped to Alice Cooper's image at his most horrific. And musically, I am assembling my Halloween playlist, that musical assortment that captures the feeling of the season.

Before getting to a playlist, something I'll drop on you in a later posting, let me first talk about a band that has caught my attention. NOX ARCANA. Their music is rich in dark atmosphere and the sort of thing one enjoys playing in the background at three in the morning when trying to scare yourself stupid. At this time, they've produced more than ten albums in the last six years, with such Halloween-appropriate titles as "Necronomicon", "Darklore Manor", "Carnival of Lost Souls" and "Blood of Angels". This is the type of dramatic Gothic film music that a writer of horror tales needs to listen to for motivation.

If you want more information about Nox Arcana (Joseph Vargo, William Piotrowski ), then take a trip over here. It's worth a visit. You'll be able to view some titles, artwork, and listen to some of the music. Don't get me wrong, this isn't something you're going to tap your feet to. But if you want to scare the hell out of the kids...then this is the thing.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Conclave, not just a pretty name was Conclave 33? I behaved. Now stop. Stop. I sat next to Michelle West, author and reviewer for Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine and we discussed politics in science fiction. Sure, there were disagreements. But discourse was pleasant and I never once lapsed into unreasonable or psychotic rants. I'm starting to think that was the point. I'm starting to think that by putting me on a panel which would probably have made me crazy had I been in the audience, that I was effectively being muzzled. Even with Chuck Zaglanis and Rick Moore sitting in the front row, their eyes gleaming with mischief, their grins taunting, I was not tempted into making statements guaranteed to incite the audience into a lynch mob. So kudo's for taming that beast, Jody.

I also wanted to mention that I had a chance to meet Steve Buchheit, a smart, funny and talented individual. Check out his blog here.

And finally. Allow me to write that Rick Moore's panels were exceptional. I had a chance to sit in on him moderating a panel on writers and editors. Rick's comments were insightful and he had a way of drawing out thoughtful responses from the other panelists. Also, during a panel on "How To Write A Scary Story", he once again was entertaining and informative. Outstanding job, Rick.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Gathering Evil

The deer are out there.

About eight years ago I had just purchased a new car. Driving along the coast of Lake Huron, on my way to work one morning, I looked out over the windshield and BANG. One second I saw road, the next second I saw deer. A couple thousand dollars worth of damage and a week later, I was on my way home at night. Dusk. Again, in front of me? Deer. Two of them, standing frozen in the road. I didn't have time to stop, so I...steered between them. I'm still amazed at this. They were standing frozen and I steered between them. Since this happened I've had two other incidents with my car and deer.

I see deer almost each morning now as we head into the hunting season. They stand by the side of the road and mock me, wiggling their private parts in my direction while taunting in Brooklyn accents. I've seen them defacing road signs, saying rude things to children waiting for school buses. I've seen them pretending to be civil to one another. I've seen them gambling and wearing cheap make-up.

It used to be about Bambi. I used to look down at hunters. I still look down at hunters. I think the time has come to hit the forests from above, raining down napalm on the antlered fiends.