Today marks the official release date of The Children of Old Leech, though copies have been showing up in the wild for a while, and I got mine last week. Still, if you’ve been waiting around to pick up a copy, there’s no better time than right now. The editors reached out to all the authors and suggested that we all lift a glass of our poison of choice to Old Leech today, to commemorate the occasion. Like my friend and ToC-mate J.T. Glover, I opted to go with the “first and truest” drink of the day, though he and I have slightly different thoughts about just what that is.

To Old Leech!

Raise your glass to Old Leech!

As always, I’ve got a queue of books to read that is deep and wide, but every now and then there’s a book that comes along and effortlessly jumps to the top of the heap, whether I mean for it to or not. Anything with Mike Mignola’s name on it always manages, and now I can add to that list anything from Ross Lockhart’s Word Horde press. Last year’s Tales of Jack the Ripper was one of my favorite anthologies in ages, and while I’m only six stories in so far, The Children of Old Leech promises to be, if anything, even more special.

Maybe it’s poor form to heap praise too highly upon books in which my own stories appear, but honestly, look at the table of contents that editors Lockhart and Justin Steele have assembled, all paying homage to one of the greatest living writers of the weird tale. My stuff entirely aside, these names aren’t going to steer you wrong. So far I’m five stories in (not counting my own) and there’s not been a dud in the bunch, and I expect that train to keep on a-rolling through the end of the book.

I’ll post more of my thoughts once I’ve actually finished reading, but this one’s going to be a big one, and you’ll kick yourself if you miss it, guaranteed.

 

While I wasn’t looking, June crept up and became the busiest month that I’ve had so far as a full-time writer. I didn’t really even realize it until I was making out invoices at the end of the month. I was planning to wait until a year had passed before I did any kind of “how it’s been going” round-up, and I probably still will, but it seemed like this deserved at least a mention. All in all, this writing for a living thing is treating me pretty well so far, and the days where I feel like I’m probably going to survive now mostly outweigh the days where I feel like I made a terrible mistake and will soon be living in a storm drain like some kind of child-eating clown. I’ll call that a win.

Obviously, with things being so busy, I have a lot going on, some of which I hope to talk about here in the very near future. In the mean time, I’ll be a guest at the first-annual DELTOROCON convention, which is happening entirely online starting July 10. You can see my name on the schedule here, alongside an amazing roster of much more awesome folks, including GdT himself. It was an honor to be asked to contribute, and I’ll definitely be posting a bit more about it as the event draws closer.

The Children of Old Leech, a tribute anthology to the “carnivorous cosmos” of Laird Barron, edited by Ross Lockhart and Justin Steele, was supposed to come out around July 15, but I’ve got it on good authority that copies are already shipping. It features my story “Walpurgisnacht,” alongside a who’s-who of some of the best writers in the weird fiction community right now. This book is going to be something special, so if you haven’t already ordered a copy, now’s the time.

body bags

The best part.

One down, one to go.

Last night, I finally watched Body Bags, the second-to-last movie I need to watch in order to have seen everything John Carpenter ever directed. All that’s left now is Dark Star, which I’m saving to watch with my good pal Reyna Sparby, because it is her favorite movie. So who knows when that’ll happen?

How was Body Bags? Well, it was a TV movie made for Showtime in 1993, if that tells you anything. Apparently it was originally intended as a Tales from the Crypt-style horror anthology TV series, which was later dropped and the three completed segments worked into an anthology film, with a wraparound segment featuring Carpenter himself as a wise-cracking coroner. The first two segments are directed by Carpenter, with the last being helmed by Tobe Hooper.

Body Bags has been called “John Carpenter at his funniest,” and while that may not be true, it is pretty amusing, and Carpenter’s own horror host schtick is the best part of the film, making me kind of wish that there had been a Body Bags TV show, just so I could watch the host segments. The segments are star-studded, for values of “star,” including guest appearances by other horror directors of renown such as Wes Craven and Sam Raimi (playing a corpse). Of the three segments, “The Gas Station” was probably my favorite, though it also may have brought the least to the table that was new. It felt, in some ways, like a natural extension of Carpenter’s work on Somebody’s Watching Me!, with its serial killer juxtaposed against the lechery and weirdness that the segment’s female protagonist has to put up with from just about every guy she encounters.

When all is said and done, Body Bags is more fun than actually good, and is situated firmly somewhere in the middle ground of Carpenter’s roller coaster career. But if there’d been a show, I’d have watched every week, just for Carpenter hamming it up talking to corpses and drinking formaldehyde, so that’s something.

Or, Is it Still a Marathon if it Takes Us Three Years?fm-logo

Way back in February of 2011, I bought the now seemingly out-of-print Full Moon Archive Collection 18-disc boxed set during some crazy sale that the company was having. And because Jay is both a good friend and a complete idiot, he agreed to watch the whole shebang with me, except for Head of the Family, which he skipped on the grounds that he had seen it already. And while he wasn’t missing much, it also certainly wasn’t the worst of what was in store.

Due to a combination of factors–including lack of time to get together, the fact that both of our significant others had the good sense not to want to watch any of these movies, and the simple necessity of generating enough wherewithal to get through some of them–it took us about three years to get through all 18 movies (17 in his case), but, as of last Friday night, get through them we did!

Since I can’t just link to the listing on the Full Moon Direct website anymore, here’s what the set contains: Puppet Master 1-3, Dollman, Demonic Toys, The Pit & the Pendulum, Crash and Burn, Robot Wars, Arcade, Doctor Mordrid, Castle Freak, Head of the Family, Trancers 1-3, and Subspecies 1-3.

For those of you unfamiliar with Full Moon, they were a company that made direct-to-video, mostly horror and sci-fi movies in the late 80s, throughout the 90s, and apparently into the present. Headed up by Charles Band, a producer and director in the grand Roger Corman tradition, and a man with over 200 producer credits to his name, almost all of them for movies more-or-less like this, Full Moon movies were mainstays of the local video store when I was growing up, and they’ve always had a special place in my heart. They’re garbage, pretty much from top to bottom, but they’re gleefully garbage, and there’s something endearing about that. They also tend to feature diminutive monsters–their best-known franchise is about killer puppets for gods sake–and by the time I was a kid they were one of the last places where you could still routinely find stop motion effects.

Plus, every video copy of a Full Moon feature contained a short “Full Moon Videozone” featurette at the end that told you a little bit about the making of the film. In those days before DVD or any of that, these were the first places I ever saw behind-the-scenes stuff from movies, or started to learn how movies actually got made.

For all that, I had actually seen very few of the movies in this set previously. A couple of the Puppet Master films, Demonic Toys, and that’s about it. My experience with Full Moon pictures had apparently mostly been constrained to others in their massive oeuvre, so most of this got to be a surprise. And, when you sit down for a Full Moon movie, you’re almost always guaranteed to get one kind of surprise or another, if not always a pleasant one.

The quality of the movies was all over the map–or at least, all over that portion of the map that can still be encompassed with the legend “gleeful trash.” There were surprisingly enjoyable films and utterly unwatchable ones, and at least one (Castle Freak) that managed to be both surprisingly good and almost unwatchable. Congratulations on pulling that off, Stuart Gordon!

It seems like such a Herculean undertaking deserves a writeup, but honestly, I can hardly remember the movies that we started this saga out with. That was over three years ago! So I’ll have to settle for handing out a few no-prizes, and call it a day.

My Favorite Movie: Doctor Mordrid, absolutely no question. It is, in fact, pretty much what I bought the whole set for, and it was worth every penny. Charles Band doing Dr. Strange with Jeffrey Combs in the title role and Brian Thompson in a bathrobe, plus a stop-motion dinosaur skeleton fight! This movie’s got it all!
My Least Favorite Movie: Arcade is the obvious answer here, but I might have to go with Trancers 2. Someone needs to just add a laugh track from an old TV sitcom to that movie, and it would be a classic.
Most WTF Moment: Demonic Toys. Sure, Trancers 3 had a crystal-powered fishman cyborg for no reason (do you need a reason?) and every other movie had more than its share of nonsense, but nothing beats that bizarre flashback explaining how the demon kid got underneath the toy warehouse, a scene made extra confounding by the fact that I’d seen this movie when I was a kid and didn’t remember it.
My Favorite Franchise: Going in I would have guessed Puppet Master, but it was absolutely the Subspecies movies, which all blended together, but which were all pretty wonderful. I want a “Team Radu” shirt!
Movie That Was Just And Then There Were None with a Budget Terminator: Crash and Burn, no joke.

Recently, I was invited by the extraordinarily talented and awesome Mike Bukowski to be one of a handful of authors participating in a special Nyarlathotep project at his website, Yog-Blogsoth. If you’ve never checked out Mike’s work before, you’re in for a treat, though I must warn you, much of it is not exactly safe for work. For some time now, he’s been drawing pretty much every creature that Lovecraft ever mentioned (over 400 of them now, I believe) and recently he went on a kick drawing various avatars of Nyarlathotep. To crown the project, he came up with the idea of inviting several contemporary authors to contribute their own original Nyarlathotep avatars, yours truly included. You can read a little more about the project here.

As you can see from that lineup, I’m in the company of some absolutely incredible authors here, and I’m honored to be included. I’m especially proud of my involvement in this project because I was able to help facilitate the inclusion of a few of the other authors, and getting cool people together to work on fantastic projects is maybe the best part about doing what I do.

For my contribution, which Mike dubbed the “most ridiculous,” a badge I will wear with great pride, I tried to do design something that I thought Mike would enjoy drawing, and something that I’d love to see done in his inimitable style, and also something different than any of the other monsters I’d described in any of my stories. The result is probably the closest I’ve ever come to designing a Castlevania boss fight, so I’m pretty happy.

The excerpt describing the creature is from a story that hasn’t been written yet. Before Mike asked me to contribute to this, it wasn’t even an idea in my notebook, though now it certainly is. Inspired in part by The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake, which I wrote about in my Vault of Secrets column recently, “The Cult of Headless Men” is definitely a story that you’ll see from me one of these days, it’s just a matter of getting the time to actually write it. (And yes, for readers familiar with “The Barghest” from Never Bet the Devil, I do just steal all my ideas from questionable old B movies.)

The first week of the Nyarlathotep project wrapped up today with a contribution from Molly Tanzer, and also featured Nyarlathoteps by Laird Barron, John Langan, and Victoria Dalpe. Keep an eye on the ‘blog, though, because next week will feature another batch, with Nyarlathoteps by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Phil Gelatt, Livia Llewellyn, Wilum Pugmire, and Gemma Files!

Forgive my penmanship, my hand shakes as I write these words. It has been more than a week since my return from the lands beyond those cyclopean peaks, and yet I still struggle to record my thoughts. Upon my return, haggard and half-mad, the doctors told me I should seek a rest-cure for at least a week, or else risk complete nervous collapse. Even now, they frown upon my writing of what transpired during my journey, but I feel that I must put it down, lest it consume me completely. If nothing else, perhaps my account can be a warning to others of the fearful things that lurk beyond those mountains of madness…

I left Kansas City on April 7 and didn’t get back until late in the evening on April 17. At around 11 days on the road, it was the longest I’d been away from home, and it really did take me about a week to recover (to the extent that I’ve recovered, I’ll let you know how that goes in a couple of days, when it’s no longer the month of April).

For the first leg of the journey I drove out to Boulder and spent a day with Jesse Bullington, Molly Tanzer, and co., hiking, chatting, dining, playing whist Guillotine, and watching Jeffrey Combs in The Evil Clergyman. Then Jesse joined me for the next leg of my journey, a mostly gorgeous two-day drive out to Portland, with a layover in La Grande to stay in a seedy motel (though not as seedy as the one we were hoping to stay in, which appeared to be called the Mr. Sandman, but which was also under renovation, with paintings stacked out in the parking lot). That night produced the most infamous photo of the trip, documenting the “cocktails” bar at the back of a Denny’s. All else is shrouded in secrecy. What happens in La Grande, and so on.

Once we reached Portland and the dubious safety of the Banfield, the HPLFF began in full swing and was, as always, a blast. As was the case last year, I spent way more time carousing with folks than I did in movie theatres, though I managed to catch the Muppet puppet “Pickman’s Model” that was my chief moviegoing goal, as well as The Sunderland Experiment.

I won’t bother attempting to tag all the amazing people who, as always, made the festival so fantastic. You all know who you are. I will, however, say thanks again to Brian and Gwen for putting the whole shindig together, and for having me out as a guest for a second year. Here’s to hoping for a third!

After the festival was over, Jesse (being a wiser man than I) flew back to Boulder, while I drove up to Seattle for the night, where I crashed with my buddy Simon and watched The Lurking Fear (not for the first time) and Virgin Witch (for the first time). So yes, for those keeping count, I saw roughly the same number of Lovecraftian films while not at the HPLFF on this trip as I did during the festival proper. So it goes. The next day, I met with some of my editors at Privateer Press, and then hit the road back toward Kansas, a trip that wound up necessitating two hotel stays, one at a Holiday Inn in Butte, where I was treated to a suite at a regular room rate, and found a channel showing old episodes of Night Gallery and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour to lull me to sleep.

I could cover a lot of ground recounting various exploits from the trip, but I’m still getting caught up on work that I missed while I was gone, so I’ll leave it at this and say that I’m already looking forward to the next HPLFF I attend, though next time, I won’t be driving.

This time next week, I will be on the road somewhere between Boulder and Portland, on the second leg of my massive cross-country road trip to the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival, where I’ll be a guest for my second year. Last year’s fest was probably my favorite con-going experience to date, and this time out I’m looking forward to catching up with all sorts of awesome people, some of them again, and some for the first time. There’s no full list of panels and other events yet, but I can tell you that I’m going to be moderating a panel with some very intimidating guests. I’ll also be signing books at the Carbload for Cthulhu author signing event, and I’ll be somewhere in the corner probably at the VIP party Friday night. Where else I’ll be is anybody’s guess.

issue13In addition to Never Bet the Devil–and maybe some copies of Fungi, since my co-editor Silvia Moreno-Garcia will also be in attendance–there may even be a few copies of the Kickstarter-exclusive “lost” 13th issue of Strange Aeons Magazine floating undimensioned around the premises, which has an original story by me alongside an avalanche of more talented folks. I haven’t held a physical copy yet, but from what I’ve seen it’s a sharp-looking production, and well worth getting your squamous appendages on.

In all, it promises to be an amazing experience, and I’m looking forward to meeting anybody there who’s going to be there, though given how many people that is, I’m bound to miss someone. I’ll be leaving for the trip on Monday, April 7 and not coming back until sometime near the end of the following week. Before the festival, I’m driving out to Boulder to pick up Jesse Bullington for cross-country road trip shenanigans that will hopefully end with us in Portland, and not in some dingy back-country jail cell, or the larder of a cannibal family. After the festival is over, I’m driving up to Seattle to meet with some of my editors at Privateer Press and get my picture taken with the Fremont bridge troll like a tourist, before braving the dark and Barron-esque wilderness between there and here on my own. Presumably I will run out of gas somewhere in the mountains and then wander into a hollow tree, never to be seen again.

Whatever form my untimely demise takes, I’m looking forward to the trip, and I will endeavor to contact you from the other side, by whatever means I can muster.

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