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Sunday, we went to our adopted mom’s house where we ate Halloween-themed cookies and carved jack-o-lanterns. Everybody else carved real ones, but I carved a couple of those carvable fake ones that you can get at the store, which, let me tell you, are the way to go.

I modeled mine on a little ceramic pumpkin that I got years back because it looked like Chris Sanders had carved it and then, when that one worked out much better than I had expected, I carved a second one inspired by the one that Stitch carves with a plasma gun in the closing montage of Lilo & Stitch which, honestly, turned out even better.

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I’ve never been a very crafty sort of person. I’m clumsy, as a rule, and not great at most stuff, so I’m really proud of these two jack-o-lanterns, and looking forward to putting them out on my front steps tomorrow night, even if I’m going to have to fill them with rocks or something because, while those carvable pumpkins from the store are great for carving, they are also light. They prompted me to change my user icon on Facebook and Twitter for I think the first time ever, if that tells you how excited I am about them.

Monday night I went to the Screenland Armour to watch the Are You Afraid of the Dark? marathon. Having never seen even a single episode of the show, and mostly only being familiar with its great title graphic, I was really excited, and I had a lot of fun, even if the show is Extremely ’90s in often not great ways.

Today is my birthday and, well, I guess you all know what tomorrow is. I kind of had to miss last October because of health issues, and the intervening year has not been easy or kind. As such, I tried to really enjoy myself this October, going to as many of the local horror movie events as I could, launching a brand new short story collection, and managing to watch at least one seasonally appropriate thing every single day for the entire month!

I had a good time. This has been a good October, this is a good birthday, and hopefully it marks a bookend to what has been a pretty tough year, kinda for everyone, if we’re honest with ourselves at all. No matter what tomorrow or the day after or the day after that may bring, here’s to a new world of gods and monsters!

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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!

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!

I’m writing this from my hotel room in San Jose, California on the day after The Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird, which was held at the Winchester Mystery House, of all places. But more on that in a moment…

The day before yesterday, I got up at 4 in the morning, after staying up until much closer to that point than I would have preferred, and got on a plane bound for Los Angeles. On the way, I watched Blade Runner 2049 for the first time, a movie probably better suited to a bigger screen than the back of the seat in front of me, but one that seemed thematically appropriate for an early morning flight into LAX, and one that was almost exactly the length of my flight.

Unfortunately, my flight was delayed by just a few minutes, and the shuttle system at LAX delayed me even further, causing me to miss my connecting flight to San Jose by a mere 5 minutes, which was still enough. I was booked onto the next connecting flight, which was scheduled to leave some three hours later. After some more juggling around from terminal to terminal, I settled in to wait. Being stuck in LAX for three hours was an adventure, though not always of the most pleasant sort, and those who follow me on social media may have already heard about the guy I was sitting next to who was on what was clearly a business call, discussing Google search results for how to kill a werewolf. “The public knows why they’re searching for how to kill a werewolf and not a leprechaun.”

After a handful of other misadventures, I finally made it into the San Jose airport, where I was picked up by Sam Cowan, of Dim Shores fame, who was also going to be my roommate for at least the first leg of the weekend. Before we could get settled into our room, however, we were given a key card and a room number, as is the style at the time, and when we swiped the card and opened the door we found a room in disarray. Fold-out couch partly folded out. Children’s water wings lying on the floor. Half-empty glasses strewn about the place. A very distinctive black cowboy hat perched in a position of prominence atop the half-folded-out bed. (Ross Lockhart later reminding us that a hat on the bed is, distinctly, bad luck.)

We backed out of the room that was, clearly, not ours, and explained the situation to the front desk. They apologized profusely, gave us another room that was, in fact, ours, and things went on from there, though I can’t help speculating on the whereabouts and, indeed, the fates of the people who once occupied that room. Thoughts of Lowlife and other movies about low-rent criminal enterprises gone terribly awry flitted through my mind. Mostly, though, I just kept kicking myself for not swiping that very specific and almost certainly cursed hat.

Friday night was readings and mind-expanding, sometimes mind-altering discussions. But the real festivities began on Saturday morning, when we all carpooled over to the Winchester Mystery House. It was my first time attending that fabled structure, though it has been one of the places in the world that I most wanted to go at least since reading about a (renamed and fictionalized) version of it in Alan Moore’s run on Swamp Thing.

29571133_10213283720221670_1687390744750188255_nBecause of our special status as part of the Symposium, we entered through the gift shop, rather than exiting that way, and literally the first thing I saw when I walked in the door was a Drunkard’s Dream-style penny (actually quarter, in this case) arcade. One of those animatronic dioramas, this time a drunkard in a cemetery, sprawled atop a grave as devils and witches peered at him from behind the tombstones. For those who have read my story in Terror in 16-Bits, you’ll have some idea of why this delighted me so very much.

Ross (whose perspicacity is, you may have noticed, a running theme throughout this account) was perhaps the first to point out the… irony? The dissonance? Of having a symposium in a house built from a fortune generated by America’s history of gun violence – and, perhaps, if you believe the (probably apocryphal but always compelling and narratively satisfying) legends about the origins of the strange structure, built by the guilt or the ghosts or both that came from those deaths–on the very day that the March for Our Lives was kicking off. I don’t think the juxtaposition was lost on any of us, especially when, right outside the window of the room where the symposium was held, we could watch the public play at a shooting gallery, or pose in front of a green screen with what I assume were prop rifles, though I never looked close enough to find out for sure.

The Symposium itself: Like last year, it was as if you took a normal, weekend-long convention and compressed it, leaving behind something midway between a writing convention, an academic summit, and a discussion salon. Call it the essence of a con; convention extract. Or, perhaps it was just a writing convention run through Cody Goodfellow’s ingenious literary vaporizor, so that we could all inhale its most potent elements and get them delivered into our bloodstream that much more quickly.

I moderated a panel on the Weird in film, television, and video games; a panel in which I found myself in the unusual position (where discussions of cinema are concerned, at least) of being hopelessly outclassed, surrounded by actual filmmakers and those who labor behind the scenes to get movies made or distributed or both. It was a fascinating discussion, I think, and perhaps even an illuminating one? Time may yet tell.

After the panels and the readings we all filed through the house itself on an abbreviated tour. I took a number of photos from outside, which you can find on my Instagram, but photos inside the house were, sadly, forbidden. It was strange, as promised, with stairs and doors leading to nowhere, though some of the more extravagant items of legend were nowhere to be found, at least in the part of the tour through which we were conducted. (The seance room, for instance, was quite small, and lacked the thirteen fireplaces with which Alan Moore’s story populated it, though there were plenty of instances of the number thirteen throughout the rest of the house.)

It was also not the least bit spooky, which was both disappointing and not. Partly, it felt like what it is: a tourist attraction, whatever air of mystery or menace it might once have held dispelled by years of gradual conversion to a sort of amusement park. More, though, I think that it is just that there is perhaps nothing ominous to feel within the walls. The story that Sarah Winchester built the house at the behest of the spirits is a good story; compelling and filled with thematic potential. And of course that beautiful line, “The sound of hammers must never stop,” which has been used so well by so many over the years.

But the other explanation, that Sarah Winchester was a frustrated amateur architect, prevented from expressing herself in any other way than through the constant modifications and experiments of her own home, a form of expression that her vast wealth afforded her even while society denied others, tells a story that is just as compelling, and within the walls of the house, feels more likely, more real.

By the time we left the Winchester House, night had fallen over San Jose. We drove back to the hotel, had a few drinks at the bar, and retired to one of the rooms to continue our rambling discussions long into the night. Then, finally, we all slept, we all awoke again, and most departed, leaving me to type these recollections in my hotel room while they are still fresh. As is always the case in a situation like this, it was a delight to see everyone, and a shame, always, not to see everyone more. Thanks to Scott and Anya for putting this one-of-a-kind experience together, and to everyone who supported it, who attended, who read or did panels, and anyone else who in any way helped this happen. It is unique, and it is special, and it is, above all, Weird.

Now it’s time to get ready to go home, to get back to writing, reinvigorated by the thoughts and words that have passed through me during this time, in this place. Typing is not unlike hammering, after all, and the sound of hammers must never stop.

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