So, as you may have noticed by now, it’s October, albeit not for much longer. I kind of had to miss this season last year for health reasons, so this year I’m trying my best to celebrate accordingly. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve got a new book out this month.

One thing I do every year is attend the Nerdoween Triple Feature hosted by the guys from the Nerds of Nostalgia podcast. It’s a themed mystery-movie threefer that is always one of the highlights of my year. This is the fourth year they’ve put it on, and I’ve never missed it. Plus, every time I’ve seen at least one new-to-me film.

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The first year the theme was demons and, accordingly, I caught Demons and Night of the Demons for the first time. The second year was sequels and introduced me to both 28 Weeks Later and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. The third year may have had the best lineup. It was anthology films, which anyone who knows me knows that I love, and I finally caught Tales from the Hood. This year’s theme was sci-fi sleaze. They opened the gates with TerrorVision, followed that up with From Beyond, and closed out the night with the batshit fever dream that is Xtro, which I saw for the first time.

As a way to help keep myself in the holiday spirit, I’ve also been trying to watch at least one seasonally-appropriate thing per day, and counting down on the #31DaysOfHalloween hashtag on Twitter. So far the new-to-me highlights of the month include Island Claws (1980), Horror Island (1941), Forever Evil (1987), Apostle (2018), The World of Vampires (1961), and hands-down the best movie I’ve seen all month: The Company of Wolves (1984).

The end of the month is growing a little packed as freelance deadlines loom and various seasonal festivities approach. My birthday is still a few days away, though the celebration will probably take place on the weekend instead of the day itself, and I’ve got some cool stuff coming in the mail between now and then.

You can bet that you’ll hear from me on here at least once more before the Halloween season draws to a close, but in the meantime, stay spooky out there!

Launch02Sunday evening we had the official launch party for Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales. It’s the first time I’ve ever done an official launch party for one of my collections and I think it was mostly a success. I introduced a free screening of Mario Bava’s Black Sunday in what turned out to be the AIP cut, and afterward I went out to the Screenland Armour for Analog Sunday, where I caught Deadly Tales and Forever Evil projected onto the big screen from VHS tapes, so that was an experience and a half!

Unfortunately, my weekend festivities seem to have taken a lot out of me, and I’ve been playing catch up for the past few days, and also trying to conserve my strength because I still have the annual Nerdoween Triple Feature to attend this weekend!

In the mean time, however, the launch party means that Guignol is as real and out there in the world as it’s going to get. I still have a few copies, so if you’re local and don’t already have yours and would like to get it direct from me, just drop me a line, especially if we’ll be seeing each other at the movies this month. And if you do already have your copy, don’t forget that you can enter for a chance to win a movie from my collection simply by taking a picture of your copy of Guignol, posting it to social media sometime between now and the end of October with the hashtag #Guignol, and tagging me. Winners will receive a DVD or Blu-ray from my collection, along with a note about why I owned that movie in the first place.

While all that was going on, an interview that I did with Gordon B. White of Hellnotes went live, in which I discuss the secret connection between Katamari Damacy and my creative process. Gordon also posted a positively glowing review of Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales.

Reviews have also started to show up at Goodreads and Amazon, including one that calls Guignol “the perfect October collection,” and another that says, specifically of my story “When a Beast Looks Up at the Stars,” that it is, “Sort of like taking a walk with Ray Bradbury, and winding up at Laird Barron’s house.” If you already finished reading, why not leave a review of your own?

I’ll keep this short, because I’m bushed and still have a lot to do before this weekend is over. Yesterday, after getting up early so I could watch Apostle (more on that later, maybe) I drove out to Manhattan, KS to participate in their Driptorch reading series, where I was joined by a couple of other writers who read really great pieces. I read “When a Beast Looks Up at the Stars,” maybe not the most crowd-pleasing story to choose, but it seemed to have the desired effect. After that, we drove through Silent Hill fog to discuss horror stuff at IHOP, which seems about right.

Today it’s downtime and catching up, and then tomorrow I’ll be hosting a free screening of Black Sunday at the Tapcade here in KC as part of the official book launch party for Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales! The festivities start at 4:30, though I’ll probably be there a little before. If you’re local, or local-ish, feel free to drop in.

If you want a teaser of what you can expect in Guignol, or if you’ve already got your copy and want to read a little about what went into the making of some of the stories, I wrote up a list of fourteen movies that, in one way or another, influenced the fourteen stories in the book for Heavy Feather Review, the sponsors of the aforementioned Driptorch reading series.

Also, if you picked up a copy of Guignol, or if you’re about to, don’t forget that you’ve got until the end of the month to enter to win a movie from my own personal collection. Just post a photo of your copy of the book on social media, tag me, and use the hashtag #Guignol, and you’re entered for a chance to win!

More soon, but for now it’s time to recuperate before tomorrow’s big event!

My quest to watch The World of Vampires began with a .gif on Twitter. A delightful image of a flying rubber bat cast in a verdigris sheen with glowing orange eyes, it quickly became my favorite rubber bat of all time. With a little digging, I was able to find other .gifs from the same film and, eventually, to track down that film’s title, thanks to the help of the Facebook hivemind.

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Finding the film initially took me to the Tumblr of Rhett Hammersmith, who had a wonderful collection of .gifs from the movie, including the ones I had already seen. Where he got the oddly color-cast images I still have no idea, but his page gave me enough information to track down the film. Once I had found it on IMDb under its Mexican-language title El Mundo de los Vampiros, I was surprised to discover that my local library actually had a DVD copy in English.

Released by Beverly Wilshire Filmworks and/or Telefilms International, the menu for the DVD had two options, “Bite Me,” which played the film, and “Bite Me Harder,” which took me to scene selections, for some reason. The movie was an American cut produced by K. Gordon Murray, a la Mystery Science Theater 3000 classic Samson vs. the Vampire Women, which, like tonight’s film, was also directed by Alfonso Corona Blake, who obviously knows how to do vampires up right.

The version I watched was dubbed and featured plenty of long monologues about the night and the power of vampires and the kind of stuff that you wouldn’t be surprised to hear if you’ve ever seen Samson vs. the Vampire Women. What it didn’t feature was much in the way of ambient noise, to the extent that a scene of people clapping was absolutely silent. It also looked like it was recorded off television half a century ago, complete with missing frames and plenty of visual noise.

All of which is a shame, because the movie is kind of a goofy delight, as you might imagine if you’ve ever seen the .gifs that led me to it in the first place. It opens, as these movies so often do, with our lead vampire, Count Subotai, who looks like he just stepped out of a telenovela, rising out of his coffin. As most of us like to do when we first wake up, he goes down into the gigantic cave under his house and plays an organ made of bones and skulls, which would have been right at home in a playset from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

His playing wakes up the film’s various other vampires, who would absolutely be its best feature if those adorable rubber bats weren’t about to show up. While Subotai and the requisite lady vampires all look about like you’d expect vampires in an old black-and-white horror movie to look—which is to say, like people with fake vampire fangs—the incidental vampires are all just people in capes wearing completely immobile vampire masks. It is a conceit made all the more charming by its absolute lack of necessity—it would have actually been easier to just give them vampire teeth, but no, it’s exaggerated vampire masks from hell to breakfast.

Subotai talks at length, if occasionally contradictorily, about his plans to get revenge on the Colman family who apparently killed him a hundred years ago, and also killed his ancestor three hundred yeas ago in Hungary, I guess. The Colman family has been busy, and I like to imagine them as precursors of the Belmont clan in Castlevania. As luck would have it, the only three remaining Colmans in the world, the older Sr. Colman and his two predictably lovely nieces, happen to live right nearby and are already acquainted with Count Subotai, who shows up at their house unannounced to interrupt some piano playing and then immediately leave again.

The piano playing in question is being performed by Rudolfo Sabre, who has some sort of romantic attachment to one of the Colman nieces. He studies music that produces “peculiar effects” and, wouldn’t you know it, happens to know a song that drives away vampires.

From there, the film devolves into the usual sequence of vampires showing up at peoples’ bedsides, those wonderful rubber bats, underground rituals complete with sacrificial altars, and long vampiric monologues. One of the nieces, Leonor, falls almost immediately under Subotai’s sway and becomes a vampire, while the other, Mirta, takes on the role of the film’s damsel in distress. Rudolfo, our ostensible hero, also gets bitten by a vampire fairly early on, and for the rest of the film undergoes a slow transformation which primarily involves his hands getting progressively hairier.

There’s a lengthy fistfight between Rudolfo and the count’s hunchbacked assistant, who looks more than a little like Gomez Addams, before the film’s final reel. In addition to being disabled by that one particular melody, the vampires in The World of Vampires seem to be particularly weak against punching, as Rudolfo manages to beat up an entire room full of them in order to rescue Mirta from their clutches. I hypothesized that this was because their masks made it hard for them to see.

In the end, Subotai is defeated and the vampires all disappear, except for Leonor, who looks to be cured, though at the last moment she flings herself down onto the same stakes that destroyed her “master.” Our theory was that she couldn’t stand to return to her old life after seeing how much better her makeup and wardrobe were as a vampire. Also, who could give up being able to turn into such an adorable rubber bat?

A lot has happened in the [checks watch] day or so since Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales first officially started to appear in the world where better books are sold or, if you pre-ordered direct from the publisher, in your mailbox. Before I get to anything else, let’s do some quick housekeeping:

First thing’s first: Now that Guignol is available, how about a contest? Just post a photo of your copy of Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales to social media anytime in the month of October with the hashtag #Guignol, tag me, and you’ll be entered for a chance to win a DVD or Blu-ray chosen more-or-less randomly from my own personal collection, along with a note about why I own that movie in the first place, and what, if anything, it has to do with my work. (U.S. only, unfortunately.)

Next up, while Guignol has officially hit streets already, the launch event is still happening in a little over a week. I’ll be at Driptorch in Manhattan, KS on Friday night, October 12 and then hosting a FREE screening of Mario Bava’s Black Sunday at the Tapcade in downtown KC at 4:30 on Sunday afternoon, October 14. I’ll have copies of Guignol (and a few copies of Painted Monsters) at both events!

Now on to the new stuff: Guignol got its second-ever review, so far as I know, from Signal Horizon, calling it “Old-School Horror with a New School Sheen,” and I sat down to talk with Logan Noble about monsters and movies and movie monsters and writing and a bunch of other stuff. (For those who may have missed it, I also talked with Signal Horizon at the Screenland Armour a little before the book came out.) I’ll have more interviews and other stuff coming up as the month progresses…

In the meantime, it hasn’t all been Guignol around these parts. A few months back, I got a pile of screeners in the mail and turned them into a sort of home-brew film festival, which I wrote up for Unwinnable. Part One is here, tackling midnight movies like Twilight People and Bruce’s Deadly Fingers along with more “legitimate” fare like The Ghoul (not the Peter Cushing one or the Boris Karloff one).  Part Two goes even more off the rails, featuring a Mario Bava film, an unusual anthology flick, a morally ambiguous western, and a dark biopic of Jeffrey Dahmer.

A little more on-brand for me, I was also a guest on the Classic Horrors blog for the Countdown to Halloween where I wrote about the 1965 film Dark Intruder. Classic Horrors is the blog of Jeff Owens, who owned the video store where I worked in college, so this was a bit of a homecoming for me. And Dark Intruder, well, it’s something else. You’ll just have to read the post.

That’s about it for now, or it would be if I hadn’t been listening to the commentary track on the new Scream Factory Blu-ray of Someone’s Watching Me! yesterday while I was chopping veggies. The commentary is by Amanda Reyes, author of Are You in the House Alone? a book of TV movies from 1964 through 1999. I was just enjoying listening to her talk about TV movies in general and one of my favorite John Carpenter movies in specific when all of a sudden she quoted my 2011 Strange Horizons article on John Carpenter’s “Apocalypse Trilogy”!!!

Let’s pull that out and sit with it for a minute: I got quoted on the commentary track of a John Carpenter movie!

Not sure my week can get much better than that, but if it would like to try, I’m open to the idea.

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Today is the big day! As you read these words, Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales is shipping from the publisher, making its way to your mailbox, or being deposited onto the shelves of better booksellers everywhere to prey upon the unsuspecting.

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I’ve had a box of copies sitting on the floor of my office for a few days now, and I’m planning some book launch festivities in the coming weeks. If you happen to be in Manhattan (the one in Kansas, not the one in New York), I will be reading at the Driptorch Creative Performance Series at Arrow Coffee Co. on October 12. And if you’re a Kansas City-area local, the official book launch party will be October 14 at the Tapcade, where I’ll also be hosting a FREE screening of Mario Bava’s gothic classic Black Sunday. I will have copies of the book available at both events.

More about what I’m doing for the rest of the month to come, but for now I wanted to talk a little (more) about Guignol, how it came to pass, and what you can expect to find between its covers. For those who are coming here fresh, Guignol is my third collection of short horror stories of the strange and supernatural, and my second from Ross Lockhart’s Word Horde imprint. From the cover art by Nick Gucker to the stories themselves, I think it makes a particularly good companion piece to my previous Word Horde collection, Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts.

Guignol is slightly longer than my previous collections, and contains fourteen of my grimmest and darkest tales to date, though hopefully these “cruel stories” aren’t without their fun, too. It’s also probably got more monsters-per-page than anything else I’ve ever written, so there’s always that.

Of the fourteen weird stories in Guignol, four are appearing in print for the first time, while several others are out-of-print or difficult to find. The full table-of-contents is as follows:

Dream House
The Lesser Keys
Guignol
Shadders
The Blue Light
A Circle That Ever Returneth In
Programmed to Receive
The Well and the Wheel
Haruspicate or Scry
Dark and Deep
Invaders of Gla’aki
Baron von Werewolf Presents: Frankenstein Against the Phantom Planet
The Cult of Headless Men
When a Beast Looks Up at the Stars

Of course, all fourteen tales are accompanied by my usual author’s notes, plus the book features an introduction by none other than Gemma Files! All in all, I’m extremely happy with how Guignol has come together, and extremely grateful to Ross Lockhart for once again having me as a member of the Horde, and I can’t wait for it to make its way out into the world.

Guignol has already been reviewed at Publisher’s Weekly and Signal Horizon with more to come, and I’m sure I’ll have more to say on this and other suitably spooky topics throughout the month of October, but for now, happy book birthday to Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales, and if you didn’t already pre-order your copy, you can buy it direct from the publisher right here!

A very long time ago, when LiveJournal was still a thing, my standard user icon there was an old convention sketch that Mike Mignola had done of what would later become his signature skull-head guy. I used it so often, in fact, that I came to sort of be known for it.

Back then, I was also doing some work for a now-defunct magazine of classic-style weird fiction called The Willows. Ben Thomas, editor of The Willows, was putting together a masthead for the magazine that included little portraits of all the staff, done by my old friend Reyna. I asked if I could have her draw her own take on the skull-head guy to use as my staff portrait, and Ben agreed.

To go along with the portraits, we were all supposed to contribute a short bio. I’ve never enjoyed writing bios for myself, and so I was dragging my feet, as usual. In order to do layout, Ben composed a one-sentence bio for me as a placeholder. It read, simply, “Orrin Grey is a skeleton who likes monsters.” It has been my bio ever since.

Because the skull-head portrait was now sort of made official by its inclusion in the bio, when it came time to publish my first collection, Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings, I decided to check with the publishers at Evil Eye Books to see if I could stick with it. They agreed, and Reyna drew up a new version, which decorates the back cover of the first edition of Never Bet the Devil. By then, my identity as a skeleton was cemented, and there was no going back.

I used a version of the portrait on my website and my business cards. Before I started using it officially, though, I felt like I had to make sure it was okay. I reached out to Mike Mignola, told him the story, and asked him if he’d mind. He was kind enough to give me his blessing.

A few years later, I asked Mike Corley to do up a new version of the skeleton portrait, which currently decorates my website and business cards. Mike Corley would also illustrate the Strix Publishing reissue of Never Bet the Devil, where another take on the skeleton portrait appears as my “author photo.” A stand-in for my skeleton persona has since appeared on the covers of just about all of my books, with Nick Gucker handling the art duties on both Painted Monsters and Guignol and Thomas Boatwright doing me up for Monsters from the Vault.

TattooAll of this sort of came full circle recently when I saw someone post a photo of their tattoo on a Mike Mignola appreciation group that I’m a member of on Facebook. I recognized the tattoo immediately as… my author photo! The individual in question had never heard of me or Mike Corley, and didn’t know where he had gotten the image. He had made a couple of minor changes and embellished the whole thing with some tentacles, but the resemblance was unmistakable.

We had a nice conversation about it, and I sent him a copy of Never Bet the Devil, because it’s not every day that someone gets a tattoo of me, even by accident.

It’s not the only time that the resemblance between my skeleton persona and Mike Mignola’s skull-head guys has been noted, and it probably won’t be the last. It isn’t something I did on purpose, but I’m pretty happy about it. After all, Mike is probably my single biggest influence and inspiration, when it comes to the kind of work I do, and it’s nice to have my infatuation with his work tied up in my authorial persona this way.

Today is his birthday and, because I am good at stuff, I didn’t plan anything for it like I normally would, but the tattoo thing happened not that long ago, so I’m telling this story now, to mark the occasion.