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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 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.

While the big talk around these parts lately has been me quitting my day job for the life of the full-time writer, there’s also been some other major news that I’ve had to keep under wraps until just now:

I’ve been approached to write some fiction for Skull Island eXpeditions, the fiction arm of Privateer Press. Those who know me know that this is a big deal for me, because I’ve been a fan of Privateer Press, their games and settings, since about forever. So writing licensed fiction in that world is a dream come true. Aside from Mike Mignola’s Hellboy universe, I can’t really imagine a setting that I’d rather be writing licensed stories in, frankly.

The first piece I’ve written for them is going to be out soon in Called to Battle: Volume OneIt’s a 10k story about General Gerlak Slaughterborn, and I had a hell of a good time writing it. But it’s also just the beginning. There’s already been wheels set into motion for bigger and even more exciting things to come from me and the folks at Skull Island, so keep a weather eye on the horizon and I’ll let you know more as soon as I know it!

Also, over the weekend we had a little get-together in part to celebrate the beginning of my new life as a freelancer, and as part of the festivities my wife presented me with a present she’d gotten me. As part of the recent Kickstarter for the Fantastic Fiction reading series at KGB Bar, one of the rewards was the incomparable John Langan doing a story about a monster of your choice. Of course I wanted that, but I didn’t get it snapped up in time. It turns out that the reason I didn’t is because my lovely and amazing wife had beaten me to it, and at the party this weekend she presented me the award in the form of this video, which John was kind enough to put together for the occasion:

Thanks to Grace and John and everyone who’s supported me already. Only two days in to this freelancing thing, and already I feel like, whatever else happens, at least I’ll have my friends along for the ride.

How to sum up Crypticon KC? I split a table with the inestimable Sean Demory, who is a gentleman and a scholar. I sold a few books. I got to participate in a guerilla reading, thanks to the generosity of author guests Brett Williams and Alan Ryker. I saw a guy on stilts dressed as Pyramid Head, a giant decaying clown, Tiny Freddy Krueger, and Stargate Wolverine. My compatriot Lydia got to make out with the Predator. I got interviewed by a zombie ballerina. Our table was right across from Richard Kiel, and Bai Ling asked me to break a twenty. I gave Doug Jones a copy of Never Bet the Devil, signed “Thanks for all the monsters,” and this is what I got in return:

doug jonesAs this was my first Crypticon, I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but I ended up having a really good time, in spite of it falling right in the middle of the most stressful of a string of really stressful recent months. The con was varied, dynamic, and a lot of fun, and I’ll definitely be back next year in some capacity. Thanks to everyone who put the con together, to all the vendors and guests, to everyone who came by our booth and said hello, and special thanks to everyone who bought a book or two! If you didn’t make it by, I recommend checking out something by my table-mate Sean Demory. His Ballad of the Wayfaring Stranger and the Dead Man’s Whore recently snagged an honorable mention in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year, and Zobop Bebop is a Voodoo gangster novel. What more do you need?

I’m sure there are scads of things that I’m forgetting to mention, and I know there are some incriminating photos floating around on social media, so chances are you haven’t heard the last of this, though you have for now!

What? Crypticon KC
Where? Ramada Conference Center, 1601 N Universal Ave, KC MO
When? Next weekend, August 16-18
Who? Myself and Sean Demory, with able assists from Lydia Ash

That’s right, this time next week I’ll be getting ready to try running a table at a convention for the first time, along with fellow author and all around bad dude Sean Demory and resident booth girl Lydia, who will be cosplaying as a couple of Sean’s characters. He’ll be selling copies of his books Zobop Bebop and The Ballad of the Wayfaring Stranger and the Dead Man’s Whore, and I’ll have copies of my (comparatively prosaically titled) collection Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings as well as hot-off-the-presses copies of Tales of Jack the Ripper , not to mention bookmarks, stickers, and other party favors. So if you’re going to be at Crypticon KC, stop by and see us! We’ll be somewhere in the ballroom, and you’ll be able to distinguish our table from the piles of books bearing the above-mentioned titles. (If anyone else has piles of those same books, well, that’ll be awesome. Feel free to buy them from them, too.)

Like I said, this is going to be my first time tabling a convention (did I verb that right?) and it’s also my first Crypticon (which I almost misspelled ‘Krypticon,’ a very different but equally geeky convention, I’m sure). I’m looking forward to it, and it sounds like they’re expecting a pretty big crowd. So we’ll see how long it takes me to get completely overwhelmed and end up hiding under the table.

I’m not doing any programming or anything, though Sean has promised Thunderdome-style reading battles of some sort! I don’t know what that means, but I know that you don’t want to miss it!

As a result of a conversation on Facebook some three months or so ago, several of my friends recently presented me with my very own, framed, official certificate of monster expertise. So now it’s official! Here’s a look at the certificate:

Monster Certificate

Thanks to Bear Weiter, Steve Scearce, Jeremy Tolbert, Marlyse Comte, Selena Chambers, Molly Tanzer, and anyone else who had any hand in this! I have the best friends!

In other news, some publication-related announcements. First off, Tales of Jack the Ripper, featuring my story “Ripperology,” is now up on Goodreads, so you can add it to your lists. It should be out in August. You can also catch a glimpse of the finished cover there, featuring some of the many fine authors with whom I’ll be sharing company.

A bit farther down the road, “The Lesser Keys,” my Lovecraftian Goetic demonology story set in 1920s Kansas City, will be appearing in Jazz Age Cthulhu in 2014, alongside new novelettes by Jennifer Brozek and Avery Cahill.

And I’m back from the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and my trip to Portland. It was, in short, breathtaking, at least once literally, as I am apparently very, very allergic to something that was up near Pittock Mansion. I took a few pictures, which I’ll probably post, at least to Facebook and environs, once I get around to sorting through them on my phone. I’m still getting used to this whole robot phone thing.

While there I got to meet a lot of awesome people, had a lot of awesome conversations, and probably missed at least as many that I’d liked to have met/had. I saw a few movies, though not as many as I’d expected. Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut was worth the price of a plane ticket all by itself, though some of the rough footage was, well, really rough. Beyond that, a few shorts, and a re-viewing of Prince of Darkness, the only film I caught was The Thing on the Doorstep, which was a really quite good retelling, though there was too much fuzzy golden light for my aesthetic preferences.

I bought a lot of exciting books, and saw a lot of interesting sights. Oregon still has my heart, as it has ever since I first visited, and I renew my vow that I’ll live there someday, by hook or by crook, a vow that’s more poignant now than ever as I’ve met a lot of great people who call Portland and its surroundings home. During my trip, I was sad to learn that Ray Harryhausen had shuffled off this mortal coil, leaving behind a world that is just a little less wondrous for his absence. The night of my arrival back I hoisted a symbolic drink to this honor, and watched It Came from Beneath the Sea, which is about as close to a middle ground between Lovecraft and Harryhausen as I’m likely to find. Harryhausen was one of the greats, maybe the finest monster maker who ever lived, and his legacy has meant a lot to me. I’ll probably post a little more about him in the next few days. In the meantime, I think I might need to backlog my To Be Read pile a little bit and haul out my copy of The Art of Ray Harryhausen one more time.

I’m not even going to try for a list of all the people I met at the HPLFF. You know who you are, and to every single one of you, thank you for your time, and I wish there’d been more of it. Getting back into the swing of things has been hard, but just before I sat down to write this post I wrapped up revisions on an 8,600 word novelette that I’d written before I left, so that’s got me feeling a little bit better about spending too much time watching Community and not getting a whole lot else done.

This is going to be a wild month, with Spectrum and ConQuest both looming on the horizon, and while my presence at both will be limited-to-nonexistent, if you’re coming into town for either don’t hesitate to let me know. I’ll be at Spectrum for at least a day to stalk Gary Gianni like a weirdo, and we’ll take it from there.